Peace and Quiet

When does sound becomes noise?

Check here for upcoming screenings: In Pursuit of Silence

The distracting effects of noise on animals:

What prairie dogs tell us about the effects of noise pollution.  The short answer:

With increasing levels of man-made noise in the environment, animals are having to contend more and more with external stimuli which can draw their attention away from these key tasks. And the consequences of failing to focus on lurking dangers can be deadly.

And for those who wonder why we should worry about the effects of noise pollution on prarie dogs, there is this:

At the end of the day, every species has a finite attention span and, depending upon the source of disturbance and the task at hand, can get distracted. In an increasingly noisy world, this will no doubt have implications for other animals as well as humans.

Noise pollution effects health and well-being.  A discussion about controlling the noise around us is long past due.

Coming to a film festival near you?

THE FILMMAKERS RECOMMEND YOU WEAR HEADPHONES TO VIEW THIS TRAILER:

More of this, please:

UK Supermarket to Offer Quiet Hour for Customers Who Hate Noisy Supermarkets.

The UK Asda chain is trying out a quiet hour at one store in Manchester.  During this hour, escalators will be stopped and display TVs and music will be turned off.  According to store manager Simon Lea, “the sixty minutes of silence was aimed at autistic shoppers who struggle with loud noises – but the idea has also been welcomed by thousands of locals fed up with the constant racket in supermarkets.”

We hope this is a huge success and that Asda’s example encourages other businesses to follow suit.

Link via QuietEdinburgh.

Want a side of peace and quiet with your meal?

You are not alone: Diners want noise off the menu.

NOTE: The statement in the article that “[t]he Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends less than eight hours of sustained exposure to noise louder than 85 decibels,” is wrong in its implied scope.  In February 2016, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) posted an article on its Science Blog that stated that the 85 dBA noise exposure limit was intended only as a limit for occupational noise exposure and not as a safe noise exposure limit for the public at large.  See, NIOSH Science Blog clarifies difference between occupational and general noise exposure limits.  According to Daniel Fink, M.D., a leading noise activist, the only evidence-based safe noise exposure level for the public was calculated by the Environmental Protection Agency to be 70 dB (unweighted) average noise exposure for a 24 hour period.  See, Information on Levels of Environmental Noise Requisite to Protect Public Health and Welfare with an Adequate Margin of Safety.

Wonderful if true:

The Future Will Be Quiet.  Click through to read Alana Semuels’ piece on “how the cities and suburbs of the future could become quieter, more peaceful places.”  Ms. Semuels’ cause for optimism rests, in large part, on advances in technology.  While technological advances are welcome, and could, one hopes, be part of the solution, the media should focus more attention on hearing health and the dangers of noise so that Americans are moved to protect themselves instead of waiting for a technological panacea.

Thanks to Daniel Fink, M.D., a noise pollution activist in the Los Angeles area, for the link.  Dr. Fink serves on the board of the American Tinnitus Association.

 

 

Architecture and sound

In Dear Architects: Sound Matters, Michael Kimmelman has written a fascinating article on sound as a component of architecture.  The article uses multimedia elements that allow the reader to hear the images, which makes the piece all the more powerful.  Kimmelman believes that sound is an element that adds texture to a space, for example the ambient noise in Grand Central which “rises upward and outward, toward the hall’s immense ceiling, embodying the impression of the terminal as a soaring gateway to a great metropolis, promising adventure.”   He also acknowledges how noisy cities have become, noting that:

During the Middle Ages, smell was the unspoken plague of cities. Today it is sound. Streets, public spaces, bars, offices, even apartments and private houses can be painfully noisy, grim and enervating.

It is the failure to consider sound when designing spaces, particularly public spaces, that allows sound to become overwhelming, to become noise.  This failure of design can be heard in almost every new “it” restaurant (and the wannabes) where the only consideration appears to be the space’s visual impact.  This is disconcerting because “[a]coustics can act in deep, visceral ways, not unlike music (think of the sound of an empty house).”   And there is no respite from the sounds of the city when your attempt to escape the crowded and noisy streets leads you to a crowded and noisy restaurant, bar, or enclosed public space.

One hopes that architects and designers consider how the design of a space and the materials used allow the people who will use the space to appreciate the sound of their footsteps as they cross the floor or, as Kimmelman observed, the reassuring “heavy clunk” of a solid wood door over a hollow one.  He adds that “we don’t talk nearly enough about how sound in these buildings, and in all the other spaces we design, make us feel.”  No argument here.  It is the failure to consider the affect of competing, discordant, and uncomfortably loud sounds that has made city living more difficult over the last few decades.  So let’s hope that architects and designers consider how unnerving and uncomfortable spaces become when they are designed only for their visual impact and without a thought towards how they sound.

Thanks to Daniel Fink, M.D., a noise pollution activist in the Los Angeles area, for the link.  Dr. Fink serves on the board of the American Tinnitus Association.

Quiet City Map: Manhattan℠

We are happy to announce the launch of our sister site, Quiet City Map.   Quiet City Map is home to Quiet City Map: Manhattan℠, a map-based guide to places through out Manhattan where the sound levels are reliably comfortable (and, sadly, some places that are best avoided).  The map provides ratings for restaurants, bars, coffee shops, public spaces (e.g., parks, squares, and privately owned public spaces (POPs)), museums and retail stores according to sound level and sound quality.   Quiet City Map will host both the map and individual reviews for each map entry.  We hope that you find Quiet City Map: Manhattan℠ a useful guide as you navigate the city.

 

On the ubiquity of pop music in public spaces

In “A Point of View: Why it’s time to turn the music off,” philospher Roger Scruton writes about pop music’s unrelenting assault on our ears in almost every public place today.  Scruton’s concern is focused on the smothering effect banal pop music has on young people and our musical tradition, but it is his indictment on background music in public spaces that sings to those of us who crave some silence:

Whole areas of civic space in our society are now policed by this sound, which drives anybody with the slightest feeling for music to distraction, and ensures that for many of us a visit to the pub or a meal in a restaurant have lost their residual meaning. These are no longer social events, but experiments in endurance, as you shout at each other over the deadly noise.

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And there is no law against it. You are rightly prevented from polluting the air of a restaurant with smoke; but nothing prevents the owner from inflicting this far worse pollution on his customers – pollution that poisons not the body but the soul. Of course, you can ask for the music to be turned off. But you will be met by blank and even hostile stares. What kind of a weirdo is this, who wants to impose his will on everyone? Who is he to dictate the noise levels? Such is the usual response. Background music is the default position. It is no longer silence to which we return when we cease to speak, but the empty chatter of the music-box. Silence must be excluded at all cost, since it awakens you to the emptiness that looms on the edge of modern life, threatening to confront you with the dreadful truth, that you have nothing whatever to say. On the other hand, if we knew silence for what once it was, as the plastic material that is shaped by real music, then it would not frighten us at all.