Lovely week-long meditation on San Francisco by August Kleinzahler, over at Slate, with particular reference to the sounds of the city. Here's the opening of the final day, quoted at length:
"I enjoy the city sounds of early morning, especially when the foghorns are in the mix. By the time it's light out the mystery is gone, but while it's still dark or just beginning to turn, the sounds are muffled and tend to bleed into one another. It's as if a jar had been placed on top of the world."
"The garbage trucks, the streetcars, the buses gearing up and down. … I'm especially partial to the sound of large passenger jets muted by night, or rain, or cloud. When I'm on the East Coast in the winter and it's snowing, or getting ready to, the airplanes overhead have a very particular sound that always affects me. There's quite a range of pitches out there, a range of tones: When one noise comes in over another and then another and another, it gets positively fuguelike—a broken-up, post-industrial version—but fuguelike nevertheless. And when you have the foghorns sitting in, my goodness gracious, you're in for some listening pleasure."
"Composers and musicians pay close attention to all these random sounds, all these accidents of harmony, dissonance, and counterpoint, as they go about their day. When you're hanging with one of them, an alert one, you see the head jerk slightly, the eyes dart around and narrow in concentration at an interesting vibration. A prose writer soaks up random language and registers striking or unusual syntax, slang, unfamiliar locutions. A poet—at least this one—occupies a sound-world somewhere between, encroaching on both."
"We don't often get the foghorn music in this part of town, particularly this time of year. In the summer it's not uncommon, but in January it's rare. So, when it's out there, like this morning, however faintly, it's a treat. In fact, foghorns are one of the principal reasons I don't live in Cincinnati."