Tag Archives: humans

Silence is Golden

The Unwanted Sound of Everything We Want: A Book About Noise by Garret Keizer (Public Affairs, $27.95, 385 pages)

“Lou Reed’s (music) is not noise; Gregorian Chant piercing my bathroom wall is.”

This is a highly entertaining and sometimes annoying survey account of noise around the world and its impact on humans.   Garret Keizer occasionally cites relevant points, such as that one’s reaction to noise is often tied to personal factors.   If I’m married to a professional pilot, the noise from the nearby airport does not bother me the way it troubles my neighbors.   (Human transportation remains the number one noisemaker around the world.)   He also notes, importantly, that we do not become “used to” noise, and that its damage to our ears is all too permanent.

But Keizer also includes considerable material of little relevance that seems to be an attempt to justify his travels around the globe in the guise of doing research for this book.   Is he serious about discussing the noise made by foreign sex workers?   Keizer also makes one whopper of a questionable pronouncement, which is that noise is something imposed on us against our will.   If we enjoy something, such as rock music, it is not noise.   Nonsense.   I love Live at Leeds by The Who but played at any volume it remains noise, even if a joyful one.

This compilation of random thoughts and scientifically based findings on noise is interesting but meandering.   The editor was missing in action.

This review was written by Joseph Arellano.   Reprinted courtesy of Sacramento Book Review.

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The World in Six Songs

The world in six (lg.)Music has played a decisive role in the evolution of the human brain and in the creation of civilization, and psychology has also played a prominent role.   Grasping these concepts could be challenging, but not with the best type of teacher – one who’s quite cool and connected to the subject – a role that author and McGill University professor Daniel J. Levitin fits to a T.   His career path included music production (resulting in his receiving several gold records) and music performances before he settled into academia.   Levitin earlier authored This is Your Brain On Music.   The World in Six Songs is his second book, an enlightening and entertaining work in which he combines his meaningful life experiences with music to illustrate each of the six songs (friendship, joy, comfort, religion, knowledge and love).     

The songs he has selected as examples represent a wide array of musical genres.   Also quite interesting are the included discussions between Levitin and singer/songwriters/performers that he counts as friends/co-workers within the music industry – most notably Joni Mitchell and Sting.   These elements have the combined effect of giving the reader a front-row seat in a well-orchestated learning session.  

Be prepared to pay close attention while consuming this book.   The payoff you will receive for this is certainly worth the extra bit of added effort.

Plume, $16.00, 358 pages

Reprinted courtesy of Sacramento Book Review.

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