Monday, 14 December 2009

Turn it Down...

A story causing a bit of a stir in the news today is that of the EU suggesting an enforced cap on the volume of MP3 players due to an increase in hearing damage amongst the young.

I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this. On the one hand it is probably a good idea, it may well stop a few people damaging their ears, and even better it may stop so many people drowning out the sound of their environment with music, increasing public and social interaction, tactility and perception. If volume was capped at 85db, the sound of trains and traffic would seriously impair the clarity of music being played, particularly in cheaper headphones, to the point where people may not find it all that much of an enjoyable experience anymore. But then neither is listening to traffic for prolonged periods of time overly enjoyable either so I'm not sure who wins out of this, because 85db would still completely drown out the more beneficial sounds of our environment anyway.

On the other hand though this has got the smoking ban written all over it. Do we actually need to take away the option of listening to music loudly? Can't we just be a bit more educational about the possible repercussions. In fact, can't we just stop banning things and work harder to grow a society where people feel comfortable and happy enough not to want to walk around in their own private sound world all the time. Can't we work harder to make cities in particular sound better, less abrasive and claustrophobic.

And surely it isn't just MP3 players damaging young peoples ears? Are we not attending many more live gigs than we used to? and from a younger age? Is our daily life not pretty noisy in general, with less quiet time and space than ever before? And is this ruling really thinking of those wearing the headphones, or those who sit across from them, annoyed by the sonic overspill into their own piece of private/public space.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Bells sound out against climate change

Churches across the globe rung their bells at 3pm today as part of the protest against climate change. Read more about it here

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Bass Music Kills Student?

An article on the front page of the Metro today claims that "Loud Bass Music" was responsible for the Death of a student at Londons Koko club on September 27th this year.

Aside from the fact that the article was full of maybes, and that the coroners report suggested natural causes, it is quite a rarity to see a sound related article on the front of a national newspaper.

Condolences to Tom Reids family.

See the full article here

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Quiet Times

Having recently listened to the excellent Trevor Cox Save our Sounds documentaries I have been thinking about how we are losing our quiet times. Trevor discusses the fact that cities are not really getting noisier, but rather that quiet space is becoming harder to find within them as more space is used commercially or for habitation. But how do our changing lives effect quiet times too?

With life in Britain becoming faster, working hours long and varied, and in turn social life too, there are less times to find quiet. Now by quiet I don't mean silent, but rather peaceful, different from the bustle and pace of noisier times.

Here in Central Manchester for example, early Sunday mornings is one of those times, where until about 9.30am it is relatively peaceful. Soon after though it is just as busy as any other day, as the shops open sending their competing Muzak into the streets and crowds of people bring footsteps and chatter.

And yet to many people Sunday is still a day to rest and relax, the majority of office workers are not working, but with people living right in the city centre and the shops open almost a full day, it sounds the same as any other. Until the Sunday Trading Act was passed in 1994 though, the majority of shops did not open at all on a Sunday, giving the day a quieter soundscape, distinct from the other days of the week.

Another law that has had an effect on quiet times is the Licensing Act 2003, which since coming in to play in 2005 has seen a small but steady rise in pubs opening later, particularly at weekends.

By closing their doors at one or two, pubs ensure that the streets are busy and filled with sound well into the next morning, rather than peaking after last orders at eleven and then quietening down after twelve once the majority of people are in a club or back home.

In my opinion it is a good idea, but it is a prime example of what Trevor discusses. The actual level of noise and disturbance at any one time is probably less than it used to be at its peak, but the constant stream of people moving around town throughout the night means that there is actually less quiet time to be found.

It is important to progress, and both of these acts were necessary given the changing working habits in Britain, but I do find it interesting how they can have such an affect on our soundscapes and much more thought needs to be put into ensuring that we do not lose quiet time and space from the public arena all together.