I’m always adjusting the volume on things, anything, all things. It’s a compulsion. I wasn’t originally aware I was even doing it, but apparently I have very fidgety fingers and a finicky ear and I’m very good at making the subtle little corrections necessary to keep volume at a perfect pitch.
If I am walking around the house listening to music with my earbuds in, I am minutely adjusting the volume according the noise around me. When I am watching a video on my computer, my fingers rest automatically on the volume control buttons on my keyboard, which causes the letters on the keys to fade slowly away. If there is a movie on in my house, I have the remote control near at hand. And if there is a baseball game or a TV show on, then I mute during commercials (My policy is that no commercial should be dignified with sound – commercials are also a great moment to sneak in a few minutes of reading).
And when I am driving, my fingers are never far from the volume control that is on my steering wheel. A moving car, more than anything else, is subject to changes in road noise. Different streets are louder than others, the car speeds up and slows down, traffic levels vary. A car whizzes by and you’ve lost a note of music or you come to a stop and are pinned to the back to your seat with a loud burst of sound. It’s a very delicate art form. I don’t even think about it, I just do it automatically. And I get so that I know how loud certain streets are (King County in Washington State has the worst roads ever; a full three or four clicks of volume adjustment worth of noise).
But you know something has gone wrong when you try to adjust the volume on your own singing voice. I’ve done it, often. It just happened again, the other day. I was driving down the street singing loudly, a coppella, about “shakin’ the blues away” when I turned on to the main street and felt my fingers surreptitiously finger the volume control on the wheel! Couldn’t I just sing louder? It’s a thought, anyway.
I do sing a lot in the car, just by myself, without music. Usually medleys of various songs as they pop into my head. Snatches of old songs, because I rarely actually know all the words to songs.
I flit from song to song, sing the chorus of one, the verse of another, the chorus and verse here, part of a verse there, several verses mashed together. Or I’ll go on a composer kick. Maybe I’ll sing bits and pieces of all the songs I can remember that were written by Jerome Kern and then maybe I’ll scoot over to another composer like Richard Rodgers or Cole Porter. Sometimes I sing thematically, maybe all the songs are about how I lost my man, or every quirky, amusing song I can recall, or every song about rain and bad weather.
Singing and driving is one of the those pleasures of life that are so fundamental. Motion and music were made to go together, like Rodgers and Hammerstein, bacon and eggs, rain and hot cocoa. But you won’t catch me at it – unless you drive by. If you are in the car, I won’t sing for you. I might not even talk to you. When I am driving people, I am silent. Or maybe I just need to turn up the volume.