The Unwanted Sound Of Everything We Want

Published on April 4, 2011   ·   No Comments

Emily Shelton

A weighty but informative analysis by Garret Keizer looking into the conflict between our need for noise and our yearning for quiet…

Almost scientific in style, Keizer has left no stone unturned in his global research into the history of noise, its role in modern society, its meaning in different communities and its impact on individuals. He organises his research to create a readable and robust argument, but one that is perhaps only suitable for those with an interest and reason for delving into this specialised text.

Keizer’s views on noise are clear, having written ‘most of this book in an old farmhouse, tucked among the hills of northern Vermont’. However, he still ventures deep into the neighbourhoods of New York, the Buddhist temples of Sri Lanka and the streets of Mumbai to conduct his ‘survey of global noise’.

Informative history of noise

From the big bang to the rise in automobile ownership, Keizer maps out a comprehensive history of noise and our reaction to it.

Alongside references to the loudest sound ever recorded (eruption of Krakato volcano in 1883) and the world’s first noise law introduced by the Romans, Keizer cites the Industrial revolution as a turning point for noise levels as church bells and roosters start to compete with ‘steam whistles, thundering belts and pulleys’.

He illustrates how the rise of consumption and consumerism in the 1950s associated noise with power, but is quick to point out people’s realisation that with noise came pollution, annoyance and health risks. He find examples of legislation and campaigns which, to this day, are battling for a quieter society – Charles Dickens’ support for the ‘Bill for the Suppression of Street Noises’ is just one example.

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