Summer Soundtrack

By Brenda Buchanan

I’ve paid special attention to my senses when writing this summer. Regular readers of this blog might have guessed as much when I wrote in July about summer’s indelible scents. Today I want to talk about the richness of the aural backdrop, the sounds that bring the world (real and fictional) to life.

It’s August (sigh), so let us consider the noises that define the warm weather months.

August sunset

Fireworks in the distance are one defining noise of the season. We live only a few miles from Hadlock Field, where the Portland Sea Dogs celebrate every home run with a brief explosive display. Some nights also feature full-on fireworks shows, which we can hear but not see.  Boom. BoomBoom. BOOMBOOMBOOMBOOM.

Sometimes there’s a big fireworks display after the game.

Missing out on the visuals is not an issue around the Fourth, when local backyard pyrotechnicians go crazy on the two summer days when it’s legal to set off fireworks in our city.

I’m as patriotic as the next gal, but am always glad when July 5 rolls around and the sound of black cats, fountains and roman candles no longer punctuates the midnight stillness.

Driving with the car windows wide open invites other people’s summer songs into my life, and allows me to share mine with them. This year the hit that seems to wafts my way at every stoplight is the cool and catchy Desposito by Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee.

I rarely crank the radio myself, but when The Lovin’ Spoonful’s Summer in the City comes on, the volume knob gets a big twist. I’m dating myself, I know, but (like Desposito) it’s got a great beat and you can dance to it . . .

Summer in the City – Lovin’ Spoonful – YouTube

Sometimes a longstanding summer sound disappears. The ice cream truck that cruised our suburban neighborhood in summers past must be plying other routes this year.

Make mine with jimmies

There are a lot of kids on our street—shrieks and whoops from the nightly game of tag or soccer carry through the back yards that adjoin ours—but the jangle of Pop Goes the Weasel is absent this year. Don’t get me wrong, I can live without the tinny tune distracting me from my work. But I do ponder the mystery of where the treat truck has gone.

Speaking of potential distractions, a baseball game (okay, a Red Sox game) is a constant background sound at our house on summer evenings. The announcers’ voices are a low drone until a big hit brings the Fenway crowd to its feet. Though the 37,000+/- roaring people are 100 miles from of my house, their voices sometimes waft up the stairs to my study.  This happened often the night I wrote this post, when the Sox beat the Indians 12-10.

A Lesser Yellowlegs, contemplating its breakfast.

Bird music is an especially lovely summer sound.

The cottage we visit in Brooklin shares the cove with a flock of Greater Yellow Legs. They busybody along the water’s edge, chattering at each other as they go. Dew-dew-dew, they proclaim. Dew-dew-dew. We spend the sunset hour eavesdropping on their conversations.

A hermit thrush entertains us from a high branch in the woods behind the cottage while we do the supper dishes. There’s a broad window over the kitchen sink through which we bask in its ethereal, multiple-phrased song. Here it is for your listening pleasure, with credit and thanks to Garth McElroy:

The rumble of thunder and crackle of lightning are classic summer noises, taking me back to my parents’ screen porch, a favorite childhood perch during electrical storms. Almost as exciting as the storm itself was the anticipatory rush of wind through trees, mimicking the sound of rain.

Is there a sound that evokes the nascent swing toward fall more than crickets chirping their little hearts out?

I wasn’t ready to hear them yet—this summer has been such an on-and-off affair—but one night last week when I stepped onto the deck after dark there they were, madly rubbing their wings together, hoping to get lucky.

I always hope that for them, too.

Commenters: What are your favorite summer sounds? What noises could you do without? Is there a summertime tune that causes you to turn up your car radio?

Brenda Buchanan’s Joe Gale mysteries feature an old-school reporter with modern media savvy who covers the Maine crime beat. The first three Joe Gale books—Quick Pivot, Cover Story and Truth Beat—are available in digital format wherever ebooks are sold. Brenda can be found on the web at, on Facebook at and on Twitter at @buchananbrenda


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11 Responses to Summer Soundtrack

  1. John R. Clark says:

    Loons and the buzz of hummingbird wings are on my list.

  2. David Plimpton says:

    Favorite: Cacophonic symphony of bird calls that greets you, whether you’re ready or not, at 4 a.m. It’s worth it.

    Noises I can do without: The motorcycle revving up unnecessarily at 2 a.m., the incessant beep beep beep of reversing trucks, and dentist drill-like whine of lawn care equipment.

    Favorite summer song: It dates me, but “Summertime Blues”, Eddie Cochran (1958). Worth listening to on You Tube, if you haven’t heard it, for beat, lyrics and deep voiceover of “authority”.

  3. Beth Clark says:

    I also enjoy the sound of the wind through the leaves and the water lapping on the rocky shore. In the early morning, I focus my attention on all the bird songs I hear while walking the dog. The sound of the ice cream truck is especially heart warming but I haven’t heard one in several years. The colors in your “August Sunset” are stunning.

  4. Gram says:

    Thanks for the music. I loved this version with the old pictures.

  5. Lea Wait says:

    Bird songs and wings … chipping of chipmunks. Lobster boat motors, followed by crying of gulls. Yes — ugh — those motorcycles. On weekend nights with windows open — cars at the Wiscasset Speedway. On any busy night — cars on route 1. (Those places are 1-4 miles away, but sound carries.) The fireworks, definitely. At all odd days and nights. Last night heard a coyote. No crickets yet, thank goodness … but I know they’re coming soon. Goldenrod and Queen Anne’s Lace are already in full bloom. Almost time to hear apples plopping onto the ground from our apple tree ….

    • Bird song is something I appreciate more with each passing year, Lea, and August wildflowers, too.

      An apple tree was outside the bedroom window in my childhood home, and I remember that dropping apple sound well!

  6. Diane says:

    My vote goes for “Hot Fun in the Summertime” by Sly and the Family Stone. Even though it’s not strictly a summer song, “Up on the Roof” always conjures for me a warm night when the “stars put on a show for free.”

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