Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Good noise

How fitting that as the film Babel comes out, in The Guardian today there is an article called 'Quiet Please' which declaims the lack of silence in Britain today.

Of course the Parisians have been complaining about the lack of peace and quiet for far longer than us, a fact that I found out when I worked in Paris for Time Magazine. The Parisians had campaigns against noise and campaigns for good noise, which fascinated me. I interviewed a noise sculptor who had created a noise museum and designed the rehearsal rooms of the Academy of Music, channelling sounds from the street, mixing them with the strains of practice from the rehearsal spaces and using a series of cymbals and giant wind chimes to create a noise art work. This wise man pointed out to me that the only place that is truly silent is the tomb, but that the problem now is that we have ugly noise instead of beautiful noise. Our homes are filled with plastic, which does not resonate. Our streets are filled with the nasty grey rumble of vehicles. Sirens, mobile phones, helicopters, and unwanted music from other peoples stereos all combine to create a crazed ambience. In Paris they had sound deflectors lining the Boulevard Peripherique (the Parisian version of the M25), and I think a lot could be learnt from their example. Defra take note.

The film, Babel, by the way, is a horrifying film about misunderstandings between nations, exacerbated by extreme noise. I do recommend that you take a tranquilliser with you for afterwards. Meanwhile, I am going to carry on attempting to bask in lovely golden inner silence for at least five minutes a day. And much as I enjoy the thick swearing from the Irish lady next door every time the people below leave their television on, I think I'll get some double glazing.

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