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Hearing Listeners: New York

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From your radio, we bring you the voices and sounds of the world. Some months ago, we decided it was time to run the process backwards. We asked listeners to tell us about sounds they hear around them during the day. Household sounds.

Ms. JANET SMITH (resident, Battleground, Washington): My name is Janet Smith. I live in Battleground, Washington. This is the sound of water being swirled around in a shallow metal bowl while the bowl is being tapped with a metal knife. Here you go.

(Soundbite of knife hitting bowl)

SIEGEL: Or, sounds at work.

Mr. JAMES RANDALL(ph) (resident, St. Paul, Minnesota): Hello, my name is James Randall. I live in St. Paul, Minnesota. The sound you're about to hear is the sound of my toilet flushing. I believe it has a bad valve.

(Soundbite of pipes whining and toilet flushing)

SIEGEL: Or sounds of nature.

Unidentified Woman #1: Tigers breathing when they're happy.

Unidentified Man #1: Alligators growling. It's a growling, roar sound, that in the quietness of the early morning with just a few ducks honking you can hear quite easily for a good distance.

Unidentified Woman #2: The sound of the alligators mating in the spring at night. It is the most amazing sound. It's something between an amplified sound of a frog and a machine gun. I can't really explain it.

Unidentified Woman #3: Llamas, two makes fighting.

(Soundbite of squealing)

Unidentified Man #2: That's a mama pig.

Unidentified Woman #4: The sound of two Basenji's. It's a breed of dog from Africa. It's something to the effect of roar, oohr.

Unidentified Man #3: The sound of the courtship between two porcupines. Kind of a humming song on the part of male and female. It would go almost subsonic and then almost up beyond the human range of hearing and then back down again. And while the male was going up in pitch, sometimes the female would be going down. This was accompanied by a thrumming noise.

SIEGEL: One caller told us about his family's tannery business in Montgomery, New York. They make leather and suede from deerskin, for bowling shoes and for the workings of the inside of pianos.

(Soundbite of running water)

Mr. JESSIE MEYER(ph) (Richie D. Meyer, and Sons): My name is Jessie Meyer. I work here at Richie D. and Sons. I'm a parchment maker and part-time tanner. We have a whole bunch of machines that are decades old, if not older.

(Soundbite of machine starting)

Mr. MEYER: This big cast iron and roll gear contraption is called a setting-out machine. It's basically like a very large squeegee.

(Soundbite of machinery running)

Mr. MEYER: We would do cowhide, big huge pieces of cowhide. The sound that it made always reminded me of the death throes of the cows.

(Soundbite of machinery)

(Soundbite of running water)

(Soundbite of machinery running)

Mr. MEYER: This is a measuring machine, and it basically measures the square-footage of a skin.

(Soundbite of machinery)

Mr. MEYER: It has all these pulleys with the little dials. You run a skin through and anytime it happens to hit one of these, because there's a row of 50 or so of them, anytime it hits one it will boost it up a bit and it will then cause this dial to move.

(Soundbite of machinery whirring)

Mr. MEYER: This is - it's called a buffing machine. And it's basically a large rotary sanding drum. It has a foot pedal with a rest on it and you basically put the skin in and buff all of the unnecessary stuff off the skin to give it a suede surface.

(Soundbite of machinery winding down)

Mr. MEYER: Four hundred and fifty years of tradition and business, especially in something as changeable as tanning leather, most of the tanneries are now in China. For some crazy reason, we actually export leather to China. It's totally by chance that we're still in business. So it's something that I defiantly appreciate that we're still here, and I don't know if I want to see that sort of disappear on my watch.

(Soundbite of machinery whirring)

SIEGEL: Jessie Meyer at his family's tannery in Montgomery, New York. Tomorrow's listener audio comes from a Columbus, Ohio steel factory.

(Soundbite of running water)

(Soundbite of music)

SIEGEL: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.