Soon silence will have passed into legend. Man has turned his back on
silence. Day after day he invents
machines and devices that increase noise and distract humanity
from the essence of life,
contemplation, meditation . . .
tooting, howling, screeching, booming, crashing,
whistling, grinding, and trilling
bolster his ego. His anxiety subsides.
His inhuman void spreads monstrously like a gray vegetation.
--Jean Arp [Hans Arp](1886-1966)
Arp on Arp: Poems, Essays, Memories. New York: Viking, 1972, p.231
America is the noisiest country that ever existed. One is waked up
in the morning, not by the singing of the nightingale, but by the
steam whistle. It is surprising that the sound practical sense of
the Americans does not reduce this intolerable noise.
--Oscar Wilde [Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde](1854-1900)
Epigrams - Phrases and Philosophies for the Use of the Young.
New York: Lamb Publishing Co., 1909, "Impressions of America",
p.252, the published version of a lecture Wilde gave for the first time
on 24 September 1883 in Wandsworth Town Hall upon his return to England
from the former Colony
Noise is a pollutant.
It degrades our environment and our lives in the same way that
air and water pollution, food contamination and urban congestion do.
I believe we need to limit unnatural noise around us in the same way
we have been reducing smog and river waste and other harmful products of
our oversized society.
A positive way to look at what we need is this:
we need to develop a new, pervasive notion of the importance of
"quality of life" in our society.
Similar to the now-fashionable notion of the importance of
"going green", we need to give the relatively small
components of a high-quality daily existence much more
attention than they now get.
We all know the big-ticket items: safety, roads, national defense,
education, and, in recent years, air and water quality and
attention to global warming.
Many other, smaller, issues also affect our daily lives, such as
litter, traffic flow, landscaping, quantity of outdoor advertising,
parks and other public spaces, and, yes, noise.
Communities that pay attention to these types of issues are
better places to live, and are probably less prone to
violence, crime, and many other social problems.
This is a bare-bones Web site with only a few sections:
Bad Noise -- a (partial) list of problems needing to be addressed
How or why did noise become a problem
Suggested alternatives and solutions
Evidence and opinions that noise is, indeed, a problem
Other resources that address the problem
- backup beeping sounds on large vehicles and construction machinery
- other sounds designed to act as warning (e.g., at street crossings, &c.)
- car and building theft alarms
- automobiles with bad or intentionally modified mufflers
- motorcycles with bad or intentionally modified mufflers
- aircraft, especially helicopters
- construction noise
- amplified personal music or speech
- motorized leaf-blowers, lawn and hedge trimmers, and similar devices
- cellular telephone conversations in public places
- amplified sound at events in public areas (e.g., parks) that are
near residential areas
- constant music in public spaces, e.g., malls, building lobbies,
How did the problem arise?
- in the case of backup beeping, the original concept was
an appealing one -- enhance the safety of people in the immediate
vicinity of large vehicles -- but was implemented without
considering the collateral damage of noise pollution -- the
effects on others who would hear the sounds
- in the case of car or other theft alarms, the idea is better than
the effect; very high false-alarm rates -- some estimates have them at
90% or more -- cause people to ignore them as nothing more than a nuisance
- automobile and motorcycle noise is a problem because existing laws
and regulations are not enforced fully
- radios used in public, amplified speech, cell telephone usage and
similar sources of noise are partly the result of personal arrogance
and the fact that much of our society lacks a concept of "shared
- in general, excessive noise is a problem because it exists --
people get used to it and don't seem to notice it -- and because
doing something about it seems an overwhelming task
Suggestions for Fixing the Problems
Evidence and Opinions about the Problem of Noise
this site was updated on Friday, 13 June 2014 -- comments and suggestions welcome