It is universally acknowledged that everybody loves the sound of ocean waves. Well, almost everyone. Back in the ’70s I heard about an individual — she happened to be a celebrity — who was rattled by the boom of big waves outside and even underneath her newly purchased house built on pilings over the Pacific Ocean. Lying awake at night in the Malibu Colony, pop singer Linda Ronstadt worked herself into a state of nervous exhaustion from the jolting breakers, so much so that she built a bunker out back on terra firma, with soundproofing panels to enable her to sleep through both “surf’s up”-size waves and nuclear war.
But apart from Ms. Ronstadt, seemingly everyone in the world is soothed by the sound of waves. Which brings us to the latest project of photographer Michael Eudenback, formerly of West Tisbury and now in Newport, R.I. Mr. Eudenback loves to film our beaches, but a few years back he realized another dimension of the ocean beguiled him utterly.
He’d been stressed out and losing sleep. In a recent phone interview with The Times he said, “I was consulting doctors about insomnia. Nothing seemed to help.”
He had no interest in medicating himself silly (as some of us do). And then one afternoon on Lambert’s Cove Beach, after snapping a number of gorgeous shots, he stretched out on the warm sand and fell asleep. His last thought before a nice restorative snooze was, “Man, those waves are soporific.”
He returned to Lambert’s Cove with a recorder, and soon he was able to take the waves home with him: “It was transformational. Night after night the sounds from the shore lulled me to sleep.”
Pretty soon Mr. Eudenback was a man on a mission. He recorded the heavy surf of South Beach (where Linda Ronstadt should never buy a home), and the softer waves of West Chop, Lucy Vincent, and Gay Head. The quality of the sound of the CD Mr. Eudenback has produced from these recordings, Ocean Sounds of Martha’s Vineyard, is so clean and pure that at a first listen one might wonder, “How the heck did he bring the beaches into a studio?”
Mr. Eudenback says he took every natural precaution to derive unsullied sound. “I recorded in the off-season, went out very early in the morning, and then I found tricks to deal with the wind” (which can, apparently, really ruin the track). He scanned weather reports. For thunderous surf recordings he raced to south-facing beaches in the aftermath of storms. For gentler tides, he strove to capture the wave action in one continuous track. Should a jet fly over, he sighed heavily, then started again. This is not an art form for the impatient.
Mr. Eudenback, who is also a sailboat captain, met his future wife, painter Jessica Pisano, when she worked a few years ago at her father and stepmother’s Belushi Pisano Gallery on Beach Road in Vineyard Haven. Michael and Jessica married in 2009 at the Whaling Church, and while they reside in Middletown — near Newport — in Rhode Island, they’re often on the Island for visits with family. And of course beaches.
Also a photographer, Mr. Eudenback has exhibited his photographs at the Dragonfly and Belushi Pisano galleries, and currently in Cohasset and Chatham. Ms. Pisano has a show coming up of her paintings this August at the Field Gallery in West Tisbury.
Meanwhile, Mr. Eudenback’s CD of Ocean Sounds beckons to the impulse buyer with one of his photos of South Beach: It’s a lyrically blue, lacy white, and gold day: gold for the sand, lacy white for the frothy wavelets, pale turquoise for the close-in shallows, indigo blue for the Atlantic Ocean, and a flag-blue sky that informs all the colors below.
Mr. Eudenback said in a recent phone interview that the recordings are aimed at yoga practitioners who normally groove to the sounds of nature, as surround sound for surfers (“They turn it up high!”) when they’re trapped indoors, and as background feed for anyone far from this beloved Island who needs a tune-up from its wonders. But principally, it’s a tool for sleep.
The time had come for this reporter to test out the sleep dynamics of the Ocean Sounds CD. I happen to be an insomniac of epic proportions. Even as a small child, I often lay awake in bed watching the ruffling lights of far-away cars on my ceiling. When I complained to my mother that I rarely slept, she said, “Resting is just as healthful as sleeping.” OK, so I’ve spent my life resting.
I plugged in my CD player near the bed, turned Ocean Sounds on low (in case Linda Ronstadt dropped by for a late-night chat), put on my jammies and crawled under the covers with a book.
The sounds of the softly licking waves — the first 11-minute cut is from West Chop — includes ever-so-nuanced gurgles of water, almost like a fountain, only even sweeter. I read a few pages from the book, sinking deeply, hypnotically into a mound of pillows. I was out in no time, with no recollection of setting the novel aside or of turning out the light.
I slept through the night without waking up once: a new personal best. This works, my fellow and sister insomniacs. I intend to buy a few more copies of Mr. Eudenback’s CD before supplies run out. Look for them in the bookstores and assorted gift shops on the Island. The CD can also be purchased on eBay, Amazon and iTunes, and from theoceansounds.com.
And you know who else should stock them? Physicians, both allopathic and naturopathic, that’s who.