One Square Inch of Silence: One Man's Search for Natural Silence in a Noisy World Hardcover – Mar 31 2009
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“Interweaves his intriguing and instructive on-the-road adventures with
fascinating and rarely addressed facts about sound, health, and
environment. Many books help us see the world differently; this one
induces us to hear the world clearly.”—Booklist, Starred Review
“An important message.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Fascinating and disturbing.” —LA Times --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
About the Author
Gordon Hempton is an acoustic ecologist and Emmy Award-winning sound recordist. For nearly 25 years he has provided professional audio services to musicians, galleries, museums, and media producers, including Microsoft, Smithsonian, National Geographic, Discovery, National Public Radio, and numerous other businesses and organizations. He has received recognition from the Charles A. Lindbergh Fund, National Endowment for the Arts, and the Rolex Awards for Enterprise. He studied botany and plant pathology at the University of Wisconsin. His sound portraits, which record quickly vanishing natural soundscapes, have been featured in People Magazine, a national PBS television documentary, "Vanishing Dawn Chorus," which earned him an Emmy Award for “Outstanding Individual Achievement.” Hempton has now circled the globe three times in pursuit of environmental sound portraits. His new audio series--Environmental Sound Portraits--is the first new work to appear in more than a decade. He lives in Port Angeles, WA.
John Grossmann has been a freelance writer of magazine articles and books for nearly all of his working career. He has written on as wide a range of topics as implied by the following list of magazines that have published his work: Air & Space/Smithsonian, Audubon, Cigar Aficionado, Esquire, Geo, Gourmet, Health, Inc., National Geographic Traveler, The New York Times Magazine, Outside, Parade, Saveur, Smithsonian, Sports Illustrated, and USA Weekend. He ghostwrote the 2006 book Smart Moves for Liberal Arts Grads (Ten Speed Press); and before that wrote the 100-year history of one of the nation’s oldest and most successful summer camps, YMCA Camp Belknap, which he attended as a camper and leader and where his two sons have also been campers and leaders.
Top Customer Reviews
Trying to understand my teenager's love of loud music, I loved the Toxic Noise Chapter. On Pg 237, a key understanding for me: "...an organ near the ear known as the sacculus,...is stimulated by loud music. It also turns on the pleasure center of the brain-in some individuals, apparently quite powerfully. Habitual listeners to loud music, when deprived of their decibel fix, show withdrawal symptoms similar to those if addicts, according to Nary Florentine at the Institute for Hearing, Speech, and Language at Northwestern University in Boston."
I highly recommend this book and encourage people to seek their own "square inches of silence."
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
In the competition between those who seek noise to drown their soul and those who seek quiet to bring peace, those who make noise will always win. Because when a person makes noise they dominate the region they are in, making so everyone has to accept their hobbies or be judged intolerant.
So, the premise is great. Only, there's so much of the authors at every point that I feel like they're the noisy neighbors who show up at a camp and proceed to talk about how much they love quiet, regale you with stories of where they've been, and otherwise fill the quiet with their constant chatter. They love the quiet but fill it up with their own noise--oblivious to self while decrying others.
This is definitely more about "the one man's search" than the natural silence, making it more of a "road" story than an exploration of the quiet places to find. The quest for quiet becomes its own noise, in a way, an over-intentional awareness that can't seem to find peace.
Don't get me wrong, it's an interesting and well-written book. I don't disagree with the positive reviews here, just was myself too aware of their constant imposition that I kept wanting to hear more, see more, about the nature they were in.
I have a feeling that this niche topic will not appeal to most readers. I have a feeling that most folks do not even notice this constant assault (or cannot "afford" to notice it). If you think you are interested in the topic, be forewarned that the text is a fairly lengthy (extremely focused) study and the author is a bit of a curmudgeon (unapologetically so). Nonetheless, it is accessible to lay-people and tends to read very easily (translation: it is not jargon-laden! Thank goodness!) It is (infinitely) passionate (even though you may occasionally find yourself skimming the text). And, it is well worth your time!
Invest in this text if you enjoy environmental studies, exploring nature, or are simply captivated by the (unusual) topic.
His ongoing fight, focuses primarily on airplane overflight of the park, although he looks at other noise intrusions not only in national parks, but in other areas, cities, suburbs, and elsewhere. The book is a travelogue of his cross-country trip to Washington DC to plead his case to help protect OSI to the FAA and other government agencies. Along the way, he meets people affected by the encroachment of man-made noise into their lives, gathering their stories.
Early on, some of Hempton's remarks make him sound somewhat like a luddite crackpot, discussions of why park managements doesn't use horses instead of power tools and motorized vehicles to do park maintenance and so on. However, Hempton is no luddite, in fact, one might almost find some of his activities hypocritical, driving a noisy (by his own admission) VW microbus crosscountry and making frequent air flights mid-trip. He is not looking to eliminate all air traffic, just those over National Parks and other 'unspoiled' areas. One may make the argument that he is guilty of a NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) attitude, and I'm not sure that isn't entirely true. For me, one event that soured me on his crusade is when, while making a nature recording, it is ruined by a distant train. Instead of starting another "evils of intrusive man-made noise" rant, he shrugs it off because he has "a soft spot for trains".
Hempton's writing style is casual and readable, although he tends to overdescribe or include too much detail. In fact, he name drops his favorite brand of tea so often, I started to wonder if he was getting a promotional fee. He also makes sound level reading throughout his trip. I found it interesting and felt it helped to give specific examples of his observations, however, I think the average (non-audio geek)reader may find this tedious.
Overall, I found the account to be interesting, and while I primarily agree with his concerns, I felt some of his comments to be over the top.
If you have an interest in audio pollution, natural preservation or underdog vs. government fights, pick up a copy. I think you'll learn a lot, and be entertained.
This is an interesting public awakening book. Hempton is what is called an acoustical ecologist and has lots of experience from which to build his case for natural silence. He is fiercely opposed to Commercial Airline traffic over National Parks. This is the constant complaint he has and he beats this drum all through the book. In my opinion the best part of the book was Chapters 10-11, Seeking Muir's Music and Hundred-Mile Walk to Washington. The rest was interesting but had the tendency to be something of a white paper expanded with personal family experiences and complaints about unwelcomed noises in the National Parks. The addition of the political brokering of the last chapter was the weakest part of the book. The wheels of Washington run too frustratingly slow for much addition to the book other than showing the difficulties to be faced. These parts left the book spinning in the mud and became more tedious than, I suppose, either he or Grossmann intended. This book deserves to be read just to remind everyone about the noise pollution that is going on around us daily. If that was the purpose of the book then it does succeed. I'm not sure if his agenda for the Hoh will work or even make it to Committee, but it is at least an attempt at reducing noise pollution. A better than average read to remind us all of the problems man-made noise has on the environment.
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