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The Never-Ending Sounds

By Nuria Estrella Santos

To my Dad.

During this time of the year, I do not have many guests who stay in the cottages. I have twelve of them but for this week, only three are occupied. People come from all over to escape the city and to stay at one of my cottages because of wilderness surroundings and the beautiful view of the river.  So many people visit that I can barely remember the conversations that I have with my guests.


I am not a curious person, but I am impressed on how easy it is for people to talk so candidly about their lives, so I like to ask questions. People’s lives are often similar and I am rarely interested in them, but I consider listening to be a part of my job.

A few days ago came the girl of the never-ending sounds, and since she left, this place feels different and maybe I do too.

She was not very different from the other visitors, but there was something about her that intrigued me.

When she first arrived, she asked to stay at the cottage closest to the river.  As we walked the path down to the cottage and past a number of trees, the girl of the never-ending sounds walked silently. Once we arrived she was not like any other guest and did not make the usual tour of the room. Instead, she closed her eyes and stood in silence for a moment and after few minutes she told me the cottage was perfect; later I could understand why ...

Every morning, she would wake up at sunrise and go for a very long walk. In the evening, she would show up around dinnertime and enjoyed eating with the other guests.

On her last day, she arrived after all the other guests had left and was eating alone when I walked up to her to say hello. As we started talking, I expected her to be like the other guests and to ask me about my life in this remote place, of which I usually repeat my dialogues. But instead, she talked of things that were not in my script and I got interested in what she was saying and decided to sit down and have a chat. I asked her what had brought her to this remote place; she took a moment to answer, as if she had been keeping a secret. Then she told me she was looking for the never-ending sounds.

I lived in a place of never-ending sounds, but I had never felt it that way, maybe when things have a name then they start to make sense.

For her, the never-ending sounds were related to nature and when she discovered them she never wanted to get away from them. As she was speaking, I noticed that gleam in the eyes of people who are passionate about something. I have always been amazed by this kind of person, and how their passions completely transform their lives.

A never ending sound: the ocean waves, the everlasting game between the moon and the sea, the orchestra of jungle animals where every second, a new player is born, a forest where leaves never stop falling, a river’s infinite race into the sea, the wind dancing with the branches, the rain into the ocean and the anthem of the fish swimming in the sea.

Ola LPita


I then asked her why she recorded the sounds. She then explained to me that one day she was amazed and surprised by the intensity of music and sounds. For instance, the image of her late father was almost indifferent to her mood; in contrast, listening to Opera would always have a very deep and emotional impact on her. In her memory she associated Opera with her dad and her childhood. Listening to Opera was kind of bittersweet, but it would in an instant transport her back when she was growing up. Every morning her father played Opera, most people wake up to an alarm clock, but she listened to Caruso, Pavarotti and Callas instead.

For most people, taking pictures is a way to capture a moment in time.  But for her, pictures were meaningless. She told me that sounds and music are tied into our emotions and memory in the brain. We relate to them, because we have them within ourselves; our heartbeat is a rhythm. The music and sounds in our lives are like the master key that opens the files from our memory.

"We always take pictures of landscapes and beautiful places, but landscapes also speak to us" she said. She played with the idea that each landscape speaks a different language.  Instead of a photo album, she kept an acoustic album. During her trips, instead of a camera she carried a tape recorder and a microphone so that she would not only capture just a brief moment but thousands of memories, images and sensations in the form of vibrations that travel hundreds of meters per second through air.

Original Language: Spanish

English Translation: David Adam Kess and Nuria Estrella Santos

Click here to listen to Never-Ending Sounds:

Sea and Sea lions. San Cristobal, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador. Recorded by Pablo Mejia Saccomori

Birds at Sunrise. Quito, Ecuador. Recorded by Nuria Estrella Santos.