The Sound of Water

Consider a calm-inducing water feature or technology that creates the next best thing.


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LAST YEAR, MY WIFE AND I RELOCATED from Northern California to the Pacific Northwest. It was a lifestyle change enabled by the work-at-home office. We rented a small condo near downtown Portland and on the first evening became acquainted with the nightly migration of thousands of crows who made the dusk stopover in the trees and nearby rooftops around Keller Fountain Park. The stagers had taken over our old place and our agent sent photos of a house that looked like it belonged to someone else. It soon would. Meanwhile we were learning the neighborhoods and seeing a few homes that looked promising. We had a general list of priorities that began with quiet and something that had personality.

The house we ended up purchasing checked most of the boxes indoors, but it wasn’t until we stepped outside into the back patio and garden that I felt the emotional pull. I could see the small pond and waterfall from the family room, but upon stepping outside it was the sound that caught me, the sound of water splashing down a couple small pools before its final descent into the pond. Somewhere submerged out of sight a pump was quietly encouraging the water to repeat its journey.

Acoustics and sound are integral parts of the home experience. Inside the home, minimizing the sounds coming from the outside and quieting the sounds of the house itself is an important consideration. Then the distributed audio system places the right entertainment in the right room at the right time with less competition from the noises of the city. Outdoor audio systems can deliver that same sonic experience when the lifestyle moves outside.

But sometimes we need something a little simpler, more natural. The sounds of flowing water have long been associated with anxiety and stress relief, relaxation and meditation. And “sounds” is plural for a reason. There are a multitude of sounds in moving water — what author Herman Hesse called “these many voices in the river” in Siddhartha. The result is nature’s white noise relaxation app. The world is getting louder, and the multi-frequency sound from moving water can mask some of those sounds of the city that interfere with relaxation and well-being. And for the 15-20 percent of us who live with tinnitus, the sound of the waterfall can mask the ringing, even if temporarily. Not all homes are able to consider a calm-inducing water feature, and yes, there is that maintenance thing as well. (At home here where the Spring sun is starting to peek through the clouds, we are learning a thing or two about minimizing algae growth.) Are there technology solutions to creating a soundscape like this? Indeed. One company, Emeryville, California based Spatial is creating custom designed 3D aural landscapes that use sound to elevate the connection to any space, inside or out.

Algae control notwithstanding, another benefit of the real thing is the stunning visual, a focal point for the landscape design, a perfect companion for afternoons gardening or dinner on the patio.


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April 2022 News