Thursday, November 25, 2010

Fear of sound or is silence golden?

Physical State: cold
Mental State: agitated
Music: The Boats - Sleepy Insect Music
Fashion sense: jeans, black long sleeve shirt.

Today I was sitting at the local Starbucks listening to the newest episode of the Spark podcast from CBC and the beginning part got me to thinking. Nora interviewed Julian Treasure in Surrey, England who has written a book called Sound Business about the nature of sounds and how they affect us emotionally, physiologically, etc. Check out this TED lecture. He is also part of a consulting firm Sound Agency that works with businesses and their sound environments to increase productivity and sales. The example that Nora cited was a sound environment project that his company Sound Agency had designed for the Glasgow International Airport that was to chill out travellers waiting for flights.

As I sat there and wrapped up my listening to the podcast I started trying to read a book while listening to some soft ambient music (The Boats as linked to above). Even with earbuds that were cranked I could also simultaneously hear: two hyperactive teenage girls high on sugary frapuccinos laughing and gabbing at extremely high levels, the invasive sounds of Christmas music blasting on the cafe sound system, the beeping noise of the brew alert signal behind the cash and a guy talking on his cell phone. This caused me a lot of stress (as cacophonous sounds often do). Throw some caffeine on top of it all and BOOM, a not so pleasant experience all told. Our avenues for quiet reflection and contemplation are becoming scarcer and scarcer. I find it hard now to read a book longer than 10 minutes or read emails with a television blaring in the next room. With tinnitus (that I have had for 4+ years) it sounds, in total silence, like there is a tv on in the room. I am convinced that I listened to a Guitar Wolf song (Jet Generation) one too many times and that put the tinnitus over the top although I can't prove it. The tinnitus makes it hard to concentrate (and at one time sleep). Do we truly get used to noise? With my ipod I crank up the volume of music I want to hear to calm me while it competes with sounds around me making it hard to focus. Its probably no coincidence that the noise cancellation headphones are the biggest sellers at the moment. We want to turn off the world and live in our own.

I seem to be, over the past few years, yearning more and more for quiet and peaceful environments when it comes to sound. This is reflected in the choices I make for music which lately seem to be more ambient in nature: non-vocal, non-abrasive and droney. Stars of The Lid being my ultimate go-to band. Its interesting that Treasure and his firm have been creating this "Music For Airports" (to coin a phrase from the Brian Eno album name from several years ago). It seems that silence (and calm sound environments) are a rarity these days around us. I find increasingly that when I am confronted with silence or a peaceful soundscape that I also get a feeling that I should be DOING something. I find that I am weirded out a bit by silence, yet I crave it constantly. Perhaps its because I have music on at all times that my ears are telling me they need a break.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?