Why Silence. Part 4.

Emma Zangs
May 4, 2018 · 3 min read

Silence comes from various experiences of noise.

‘Cities are extremely busy and noisy. You don’t necessarily get silence from an environment that is silent. You first feel silence when you are expecting noise’, says architect Hiroshi Nakamura.

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Hiroshi Nakamura & NAP, Optical Glass House.

Nakamura made me think about how we experience silence, that silence does not mean no sound but silence more as a relationship with sound.

I noticed that when I am in a more silent environment, I isolate sounds a lot easier. The birds singing is highlighted, a car passing from far gets noticed or I can hear my breath or my heart pounding. Paradoxically, silence becomes filled isolated with sounds.

Whereas what Hiroshi Nakamura explains is that when looking at something that produces noise, like a car or a plane, but watching it from a noise proof building, that is when we get surprised and truly experience silence.

On a stroll down the streets of Frankfurt, I came across this T-Shirt by Danish brand Wood Wood that said, SILENCE (Sound of waves). Once again Nakamura’s concept of how we experience silence is highlighted here. Reading this T-Shirt, we associate the word silence and our understanding of it with the sound waves.

How many ways is there to experience silence? Is silence experiencing one sound at a time, like the birds singing or the sound of waves? And if silence and noise are so intertwined, does silence really exist? And could we ever experience extreme silence?

Sound-tracker Gordon Hempton is looking for the answer, is looking for silence. He’s on a mission to preserve silence in Nature. He found the most silent place on Earth in The Hoh Rain Forest, Olympic Park, Washington and fights to protect it. ‘In less than 10 years, there will be no quiet place on Earth unless we take action.’ He founded the One Square Inch Foundation, that is pressing to pass one law to protect parks from jets to pass over them.

Watch sound-catcher Gordon Hempton capturing sound in the world’s most silent location.

By protecting one square inch of silence, the impact is noticeable up to a 20 miles radius in the forest, therefore protects its resources and wildlife.

By listening to nature, we experience human silence, we connect to the environment, we get to know it better and protect its resources such as silence.

I am not able to say what silence is or if it exists but for sure experiencing silence is not about removing noise.

So if we associate silence with sound, do we associate silence to other aspects of our lives. For example, can colours be more or less silent? Does movement and silence relate to each other? Is being calm more silent than being happy, angry or sad? I’ll attempt to answer these in the next Why Silence article.

Thank you for sending me related readings and inspirations, it helps me a lot to dig deeper into the research. Please do not stop!


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