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One Square Inch of Silence: One Man's Search for Natural Silence in a Noisy World Hardcover – Mar 31 2009

5.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; Har/Cdr edition (March 31 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416559086
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416559085
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 15.2 x 3.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 599 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,015,601 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


“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.

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By Ian Gordon Malcomson HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on Oct. 26 2009
Format: Hardcover
In this noisy world of ours, is it possible to find some place where perfect peace and quiet reign supreme? Gordon Hempton, in "One Square Inch of Silence", takes up the challenge of locating those patches of land where nature is not intruded on by man-made, mechanical sounds. While Hempton appears to be on a quirky mission, reading his book could ultimately change your view on how noise - one of a number of scientifically recognized forms of pollution - is invariably distorting and destroying our view of the natural world. To prove this point, Hempton, an author and environmental activist, sets out on a journey across America to discover how artificial noise is threatening the sanctity and welfare of its national parks. In the course of a number of months moving through and tramping around natural wilderness, Hempton collected evidence that unequivocably shows that air traffic, industrialization, and automobile traffic have all contributed to turning the nation's parks and wilderness into noisy thoroughfares. With this blight comes a human desensitization that dulls our appreciation for real life forces of nature and their accompanying sounds: the birds, the wolves, the wind and the water. Beauty becomes something that is left to the imagination or the accounts of great naturalists like John Muir. The concluding chapter that covers the end of his journey on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. says it all: the politicians who should be listening to and acting on these warnings are heedless when it comes to reducing human encroachment on wildlife habitat. America is a land of anything but the freedom to enjoy the true natural beauty of the land in quietness. A great read for anyone wanting to look at the environmental movement from a very novel perspective. Hempton even includes a very colorful and helpful CD full of pictures and sounds from his trip.
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Format: Hardcover
Overwhelmed by the constant sonic bombardment around me, I instantly reached for this book when I read the title at my library. YES! This is what I want! The need for "One Square Inch of Silence" speaks directly to me. Perhaps what everyone needs at some point in their lives - some sooner - some later. Interlaced with details from his tremendous audio research and work career of 25 years, the book is captivating. Sometimes a little slow, but I pushed on and read the entire work over a weekend.

Trying to understand my teenager's love of loud music, I loved the Toxic Noise Chapter. On Pg 237, a key understanding for me: " organ near the ear known as the sacculus, 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."
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars 50 reviews
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One Square Inch of Silence April 23 2009
By Yvonne W. Isola - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I highly recommend this well written book which reminds one of man's emotional need for only the sounds of nature that are not destroyed by man's accelerating invasive noise pollution.
30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting... but slightly annoying for me at the same time Aug. 18 2009
By Patrick O - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
I love the idea of this book. I'm extremely aware of the noises around, and especially the noises that are around in places that should have the noises of nature dominating. After living in and near a national forest for much of my life I've become resigned to the fact that while I love such places for the nearness of the nature, others love such places because of the open opportunity for them to exercise the manifold ways of making mechanical noise. Constant saws, motorcycles, and other sounds of human busyness contradicts the appeal and peace of wind blowing through the trees, or a raven cawing.

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.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Hush Sound Aug. 26 2009
By Dr. E - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
As a person who spent thirty-three years in a very rural area, I never really considered the beauty of silence. It was a given. And when visitors would marvel that there was not a single speck of light (except for brilliant stars) and not a sound (except for the cry of an occassional coyote or screech of an owl), I simply couldn't appreciate their amazement. Then I accepted a position at a university ... and the four-hour commute forced me to pick-up a "crash pad" apartment outside of the city. Even in this "green" suburban area, I noticed the relentlessness of "noise." The persistent roar of trucks, the low hum of street lights, even the zing of bicycles up and down the street ... it's an adjustment. While I have the luxury of returning home on the weekends, I began to wonder about people who spend their lives this way ... and I began to understand the reaction of my visitors. On a whim (and with a sympathetic heart), I picked up this text ...

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.
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I found it interesting (if at some times frustrating), others may find it tedious May 14 2009
By M. Bergeron - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
I first became aware of Mr. Hempton when I complained to a mutual friend about my difficulties in making nature recordings without the intrusion of man-made noise. I was told of Hempton's ongoing frustration with the same issue. This has, in part, led to his establishment of One Square Inch (OSI) in Olympic National Park in Washington state. OSI establishes a single point free from the intrusion of man-made sound, which would affect approx. 1000 square miles.

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.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A book written in pursuit of natural silence June 4 2009
By Forrest Wildwood - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Gordon Hempton with the help of John Grossmann writes an interesting albeit repetitively themed (re-route commercial jets away from National Parks) book on the search for natural silence in a noisy world. The focus is political in nature as it is mainly directed to the National Forrest Service/FAA and the establishment of "One Square Inch of Silence" in the Olympic National Park Hoh Rain Forest Washington State. The book carries Hempton's agenda to awaken America and even the World to the loss of natural silence and the increase of man-made noise inside the Nation's Parks. The majority of the chapters deal with hitting the road in a 64 VW bus to reinact a 17 year coast-to-coast sound safari to see what the country sounds like today. The sonic pulse he takes is eye opening as the Nation's Parks are becoming increasingly noisy places with lots of modern day distractions. He travels through Washington, Montana, Utah, Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Tennesse. Leaving his VW bus, he takes the 100 mile walk to Washington DC to deliver his proposal to the policy makers. Along the way he is taking sound measurements of intruding noises and the loss of natural silence spaces.

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.