Nothing But Noise

Are you living with noise? A constant audio backdrop to every waking minute? It’s pretty standard that we have to contend with airplanes in and out of airports, traffic, police and ambulance sirens alongside the many intrusive sounds that have got noisier since we came out of lockdown.

Who invented leaf blowers? What is wrong with a brush? Who thought up the incredibly stupid and lazy idea that it was perfectly suitable to blow leaves and dust from one place to another without actually picking it up?

Why do scaffolders always shout and use the most excruciating wrenches to put up their towers?

Why hasn’t anyone invented a quiet drill, saw or tile cutter?

We’ve been living with what appeared to be a relatively quick and straight forward kitchen and garage extension next door but one. It has, to date, lasted for over fourteen months with no clear indication of a final sign off. Still the constant monotonous drones of workman drilling, cutting and hammering continues preventing any relaxing in the garden or any time to chill unless you want to sit out there at 11pm. And that’s when the barking starts.

Lockdown dogs have strangely appeared. Small boutique, demon-possessed creatures that are untrained, timid and constantly yapping. We have three around us. I have been trying to devise an effective deterrent that would include something sweet and chewy alongside something hot and spicey. It would certainly temporarily decrease the audio dynamics before I get carted off and accused of animal cruelty or indeed wasting good confectionary.

And alongside all of this, we have an epidemic of inner ear anaesthetic appliances that disguise the outer audio distractions while setting up major hearing problems for years to come due to excessive volume, harmful harmonics and tuneless tracks.

It’s as though people really don’t care. The ever-present underpinning of white, pink and grey noise seems to be so normal that even mentioning it evokes a reaction of surprise and nonchalance that makes me wonder if I’m being too over sensitive.

Happily, I still have my hearing. The last ear test I undertook resulted in the doctor being amazed that I could detect very high frequencies and gave me clear instructions how I could keep it that way.

That included staying well away from cinemas that feel it’s appropriate to pump volume out that’s louder than a landing jet plane. Being close to or in the presence of harmful gigs that not only destroy your ears but your inner organs! Don’t assume that headphones or similar aural amplifiers are a choice for a regular habit particularly in music production. Don’t be tempted by number eleven on the volume control.

So much of what we do in composing, writing and producing has to start with being quiet. That amazing place where you can hear nothing and everything. You can imagine the sound, the tune, the lyrics and maybe the entire finished project. It’s why a quiet guitar or an acoustic piano always works. It allows the space to form and from the silence the extraordinary miracle of ‘something from nothing’.

Thomas Beecham said:” The English may not like music, but they absolutely love the noise it makes”.

A final word from the enigma that is Keith Richards:

‘A painter has a canvas. The writer blank paper. A musician has silence’.

Try it and be inspired. I’m off to kill the tile cutter who’s laying a patio two doors down.