(To survey other elements and author quotes, visit the Elements of Fiction home page)

(All quotes by Diane Ackerman unless otherwise indicated)

“I was all ear, and took in strains that might create a soul under the ribs of Death.” John Milton

“How nice is the sound of a horse passing by.” Andrei Tarkovsky

“In Arabic, absurdity is not being able to hear.”

“Sounds thicken the sensory stew of our lives, and we depend on them to help us interpret, communicate with, and express the world around us. Outer space is silent, but on earth almost everything can make sound.”

“Couples have favorite songs, even a few bars of which bring back sweet memories.”

“I am trying desperately to remember the sound of my grandfather’s speech.” John Steinbeck

“People want certain foods (potato chips, pretzels, cereals, and the like) to crunch; noise is an important ingredient in the marketing of such foods.”

“What we call ‘sound’ is really an onrushing, cresting, and withdrawing wave of air molecules that begins with the movement of any object, however large or small, and ripples out in all directions. First something has to move—a tractor, a cricket’s wings—that shakes the air molecules all around it, then the molecules next to them begin trembling too, and so on.”

“Of all the senses, hearing most resembles a contraption some ingenious plumber has put together from spare parts. . . . But it all begins with quivering molecules of air, each being jostled into the next, like a crowd pressing forward into a subway.”

“Poems have traditionally been written in iambic pentameter, which sounds like this: ba-BUM, ba-BUM, ba-BUM, ba-BUM, ba-BUM. Of course, there are many other meters in which to write, and these days most poets don’t write in formal meter at all. But there is something innately satisfying about reading a poem written in iambs. For one thing, we tend to get around in iambs; it is the rhythm of a casual stroll. But it also locks up the heartbeat in a cage of words, and we, who respond so deeply to heart sounds, read the poem with our own pulse as a silent metronome.”

“We open our mouths, force air from our lungs into our larynx, our voice box, and through an opening between our vocal cords, which vibrate. And then we speak.”

“What is noise? Is it simply random, pain-level sound? Technically, noise is a sound that contains all frequencies; it is to sound what white is to light. But the noises that irritate us are sounds loud or spiky enough to be potentially damaging to the ear.”

“At the peak of our youth, our ears hear frequencies between sixteen and 20,000 cycles per second—almost ten octaves—beautifully, and that encompasses a vast array of sounds. Middle C is only 256 cycles per second, whereas the principle frequencies of the human voice are between 100 cycles per second for males and 150 for females.”

“God gave man two ears, but only one mouth, that he might hear twice as much as he speaks.” Epictetus

“People who are both deaf and blind often lament the loss of their hearing more than anything else.”

“A dog can tell the difference between the sound of it’s master’s footsteps and those of other family members or visitors.”

“[Sound] vibrations travel about ten times as fast through the ground.”

“I can hear that in my ears and see it with my eyes and there is no reason why my pencil should not write it.” John Steinbeck