Quiet

Quiet’s hard to come by

Russell Wangersky, The Telegram, writes about being somewhere so quiet that he could hear two birds flying 20 feet above him.  He describes the sound their feathers made as they moved through the air–“It is a sound that almost defies description: both a swoosh and a rustle, and a hint of the sweep of a soft brush–a sound he notes he will likely never hear again. And that experience prompts his essay on sound and modern living, as he considers “how much sound there is all around us, and how that complication of noises gets ever-larger.”

Click the link to read this thoughtful essay.

 

 

Yes. The answer is yes.

The battleground.

And the question is: Are noise-filled carriages bad for your health? Hannah Jane Parkinson, The Guardian, is righteously appalled about a bone-headed idea floated by UK railway company South Western Railways which is considering getting rid of quiet carriages.  For some of us–raises hand as high as one can–quiet cars on Amtrak and state-run transit are the one of the few saving graces of an increasingly overused, underfunded public transit system here in the U.S. So reading that   South Western Railways may kill quiet carriages not due to lack of interest but because “[t]he rise of mobile phones, loud music players and a general lack of etiquette mean that quiet zones are now virtually unenforceable,” is an absolute outrage.

Parkinson writes that some people think that quietness is overrated [Ed: monsters!] and says that “[p]sychotherapist and writer Philippa Perry suggests that we are becoming frightened of quietness, possibly as a result of technology.” But Parkinson sides with those of us who just want a moment that isn’t filled with layers of unavoidable sound, even suggesting prison sentences for the sound-loving louts who would rob the rest of us of just a few seconds of peace:

Seven years. That’s the minimum prison sentence that should apply to people on public transport who listen to music through their phone speakers (also known as “sodcasting”) – with two years for banal phone conversations that never end.

We agree, and would suggest similar sentencing guidelines for people wearing headphones who sing along, badly, to whatever they are listening to and those who set their phone volume to 11 and engage the tapping sound on their phone keyboards.

In the end, though, we can’t and shouldn’t avoid all sound, but the artificial sounds imposed on us by marketing miscreants and social louts can be controlled. Instead of getting rid of quiet cars on trains, why not make them all quiet except for one loud car for the uncaring and boorish? Tired of trying to eat a meal in peace only to have some miscreant spend his or her entire meal shouting into their smart phone? Interpose yourself into the conversation by offering unsolicited advice or agreeing with the unseen person on the other end. And refuse to give a dime of encouragement to the amateur “entertainers” who leap onto your subway car just as the doors close, armed with a boom box or bongos–yes, really–with the intent of destroying your sanity for the next three minutes.

People have begun to accept that noise is normal and that wanting quiet is some quirky affectation. But noise isn’t normal and should not be the default. We need to push back against the bad behavior of the noise makers and reclaim our public spaces.  So demand more quiet cars. Ask someone to stop shouting into their phone.  And know you are not alone.

As our natural spaces become increasingly less quiet

Samantha Cole, Motherboard, asks, “What Will the Outdoors Sound Like in the Future?”  Cole, who lives in Brooklyn, starts her piece with a descripton of her solo trip to Joshua Tree, “to get some solitude and silence away from the city, immersed in the quiet of the high desert.” But after spending a sleepless night “on a high-alert adrenaline rush, spinning around in the small bed at every noise that pricked out of the silence,” Cole realized that her ears had adjusted to the quiet.

On her return to the city, she reached out to Kurt Fristrup, chief of the Science and Technology Branch at the National Park Service Natural Sounds and Night Skies Division, which deploys sound monitoring systems at national parks and helps the staff meet their soundscape needs.

What follows is an interesting interview, where Cole and Fristrup talk about “how our ears work in the wild,” human noise pollution’s impact on wildlife, and how the Natural Sounds and Night Skies Division is working to make America’s remaining wild spaces less noisy.

And watch this National Park Service Natural Sounds and Night Skies Division video on soundscapes:

Helicopter manufacturer aims to keep noise down

inside the cabin.  Mary Grady, The Robb Report, writes:

A helicopter solves the problem of many travelers—how to avoid traffic in a crowded city center and get directly to your destination, or to your private jet or yacht, as efficiently as possible. But they’re noisy inside, and passengers often wear headsets for the duration of the trip, to ease communication in the cabin. Mecaer Aviation Group says it has solved that problem, with its sound-reducing technology called SILENS (Sound Intensity Level Enhanced Noise System), which reduces the noise in the cabin to the point where travelers can ditch their headsets.

No doubt people who insist on traveling by helicopter are thrilled.

So what does the article say about Mecaer’s efforts to reduce exterior noise?

Nothing.  The rest of the world, apparently, does not matter.

 

 

Need a gift for someone who craves quiet?

by David M. Sykes, Vice Chair, The Quiet Coalition

Have friends who care about noise as much as you do? What better holiday gift than a dvd of this beautiful, inspired film, “In Pursuit of Silence”!
The film got terrific reviews on the film festival circuit in continental Europe, the UK, and the U.S., and then was in selected theaters several months ago prior to this release.

Want more to go with it? Add a copy of the well-reviewed book (now out in paperback) that inspired the film by George Prochnik.

We’re very proud that Arline Bronzaft and Paul Barach—two of The Quiet Coalition’s steering committee members—appear in the film, as does our friend Kurt Fristrup, scientific director of the noise program at the National Park Service, Natural Sounds and Night Skies Division.

In addition to serving as vice chair of the The Quiet Coalition, David Sykes chairs several professional organizations in acoustical science: The Acoustics Research Council, American National Standards Institute Committee S12, Workgroup 44, The Rothschild Foundation Task Force on Acoustics, and the FGI Acoustics Working Group—a partner of the American Hospital Association. He is the lead author of “Sound & Vibration 2.0 (2012, Springer-Verlag), a contributor to the National Academy of Engineering report “Technology for a Quieter America,” and to the US-GSA guidance “Sound Matters”, and co-founded the Laboratory for Advanced Research in Acoustics (LARA) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He recently retired from the board of directors of the American Tinnitus Association. A graduate of the University of California/Berkeley with graduate degrees from Cornell University, he is a frequent organizer of and speaker at professional conferences in the U.S., Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

Anti-social miscreant charged criminally

for being an anti-social miscreant: Man charged for playing car stereo too loud. No doubt there may be some who assume the cops in Central Saanich on Vancouver Island, Canada, have too much time on their hands and too little work to do.

And they would be wrong.

Although Dustin Hamilton, the offender, claims he didn’t mean to annoy people, well, let’s just say certain facts belie his feigned innocence. Like the fact that his “car is equipped with a decibel reader and he says he plays it at 150.” Or that he boasted to Asymina Kantorowicz, writer/producer at CTV News, that his sound system can reach 155 decibels. To give you an idea about how loud that is, according to Dangerous Decibels, a jet plane at 100 feet away is around 135 decibels, and the permissible listening time for someone exposed to 115 decibels is under 30 seconds. It’s a wonder he can even hear.

And then there’s the bit about the number of neighbors filing complaints. Said Hamilton, “[i]f somebody just came up to me nicely saying ‘hey I live here this is what’s happening’ you know we could do that but I never had that, I just had a guy follow me and try and assault me,” adding, “[i]t went from that to basically 17 people complaining and a mischief charge.” From one guy trying to assault him to 17 complaints, and he has no idea why.

Hamilton’s charge comes with certain conditions, like not contacting the complainants and not driving on certain roads. No surprise he is put out, as is his girlfriend, who likes her music as loud as he does, reminding us of the adage, “there’s a lid for every pot.”

In the end, Hamilton would claim that the reason for the crazy loud music isn’t some sociopathic need to torment his neighbors. No, for Hamilton it comes down to this: “I can play anything, rap, hip-hop, it all sounds good … I love sound man.”

Not for long, Hamilton.

Thanks to Jan L. Mayes for the link.

The rare peace that only silence can offer

Photo credit: Tom Collins licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Meghan O’Rourke has written an exquisite piece about the curative powers of silence in “Lessons in Stillness From One of the Quietest Places on Earth.”

Dealing with a new baby, a long illness, and a sick father left O’Rourke “exhausted, unwell and snappish.”  So at her husband’s urging she flew to Seattle alone and wandered into the Hoh Rain Forest, “one of the quietest places in the U.S.” And what follows is her poetic ode to that forest, her appreciation of its “cathedral stillness,” and her discovery of that which she was searching for: “a willful silence.”

Here’s a little taste of what it’s like to escape city noise and enter the silent world Ms. O’Rourke experienced:

O’Rourke’s story is in T Magazine’s November 12th Travel issue, which features the Hoh Rain Forest.

How to help pets stressed by fireworks

Yesterday was Bonfire Night in the UK, a time spent with friends and family, lighting bonfires and enjoying fireworks displays. As in the U.S., people look forward to the parties and displays, but they worry about how the noise makes their pets anxious and fearful. Here’s a useful piece from The Warrington Guardian that looks at how pet owners can protect their stressed out pets.

And for more difficult cases, there’s a medicinal treatment to help man’s best friend.

Or we could enjoy the display without the noise and opt for quiet fireworks.  Yes, it’s an option.