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As we all here linked somehow with sound and it can be vital part in our life -

What role in your life silence plays?

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The idea of silence is a bit frustrating for me thanks to constant tinnitus. Heh. –  Miles B. Oct 29 '10 at 1:42
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17 Answers 17

This made me think about what silence actually is. It's interesting... it seems that silence is defined by what we can hear. Like Tim's experience in anechoic chambers (i'd love to go to one of those); i've heard that when you're inside one, you begin to hear your body's various systems (digestive, circulatory, etc.) at work. Whereas when you're trying to be quiet in silence, like Filipe said, your own movements seem extra loud.

Once upon a time, i lived in a small town, and would fall asleep in silence every night; now i think too much quiet would keep me awake. These days, i associate silence with work, as sound suites and vo booths (ideally) are the only quiet places i know.

The other night we had some fog in NYC, and the neighbourhood where i live was unusually deserted. It was really eerie.

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I think for me silence is when I remove myself from the noise source (talking, etc) and quiet is when I remove noise from my life.

Silence is huge for me in my personal and professional life. It allows me to observe and not make an instant inpression. I love to talk, so for me this is a learned concept. It's hard for me to listen when other people are talking or other noises are going on around me since I have so many thoughts/comments welling up in my brain. For me, silence is turning off the talking/response part of my mine and opening up the listening portion.

Quiet is another thing. For me, I view quiet as removing artificial sources of noise. I feel that I am in quet when I am at an empty beach with waves crashing. I am also in quiet when I am in bed and hear my wife breathing next to me and crickets outside. I've never felt at peace at a concert, while watching a movie, or while music is playing. Queit is essential for me to keep my sanity.

I feel like I've gotten a bit abstract....

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@VCProd That's a cool perspective on the artificial noise / natural sounds check out this documentary if you haven't: vimeo.com/1737899 –  Filipe Chagas Oct 29 '10 at 13:47
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Of course silence doesn't exist, except in space where we can't hear it ;)

I only have 3 memories of experiencing near-silence, each was profound

  • Anechoic chamber, Canterbury University, Christchurch, NZ (25 years ago)
  • Field recording on a foggy still night in remote Dennistown, West Coast, NZ (10 years ago)
  • Anechoic chamber, ICC Gallery, Tokyo, Japan (5 years ago)

Each experience was very different due to the context & environment, but each time it was equal parts exhilirating, meditative and unsettling... I felt changed by the experience...

Quiet coloured diffuse spacious ambiences are personally more interesting to me than attempts at finding silence - the gentle sound of rain on a tin roof, or the distant sound of clean wave breaks on a beach, or the drone of my modular synth, or the gentle rustle of tape through my space echo, or the quiet of morning before the birds wake up....

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@Tim I don't know if someone was pulling my leg, but i've heard (from what should be a reliable source) that anechoic chambers have emergency exits in case the quietness is too intense and freaks someone out; is that true? –  Roger Middenway Oct 28 '10 at 21:29
    
both the anechoic chambers i visited had a single solid massive concrete door - i think keeping out extraneous external sound is more the focus than people in it freaking out... –  user49 Oct 28 '10 at 22:03
    
Yeah... I thought it sounded strange too. –  Roger Middenway Oct 28 '10 at 23:59
    
I think they're ususally not for people :) It's just fun to step inside as a demo. –  VCProd Oct 29 '10 at 12:54
    
I dont know about emergency exits but I have heard of a few and am sure many other people have freaked out as hearing and experiencing your own internal sounds is quite a strange and uncomfortable experience for many. –  Lenny Nov 5 '10 at 17:42
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An absolute necessity! I like fifteen minutes or a half hour of silence every day if I can get it. Helps reset everything... Of course TOTAL silence is impossible, but just enough away from the noise of the world that I can hear the sounds in my head again. When I'm composing, it's even MORE critical.

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yes, it helps me to concentrate on sounds in a head too. have you heard about floating cameras? i always wanted to try one of those. there is a near total silence. –  Pretaeperon Oct 28 '10 at 23:20
    
I don't know that I'd want TOTAL silence... I like just enough to get below the "noise floor" of my own thoughts, if you will. As an interesting note, John Cage noted that after a while in an anechoic chamber he actually could hear both his own heartbeat and a high pitched whine which he attributed to his own nervous system... so much for total silence! –  Sonsey Oct 29 '10 at 15:01
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For awhile i would wear earplugs anytime when i was in transit or walking somewhere

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You may be interested in this book by George Prochnik, "In Pursuit of Silence: Listening for Meaning in a World of Noise"

http://www.amazon.com/Pursuit-Silence-Listening-Meaning-World/dp/0385528884

It's a sort of cobbled together anecdotal book of one man's quest to find total silence in this noisy world. Has some interesting info, though...

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thanks! will check that –  Pretaeperon Oct 28 '10 at 23:00
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Apart from when I am trying to get to sleep I actually find silence quite uncomfortable. Mainly as my mind races and inevitably I end up thinking about the stressful/unpleasant things in my life.

I'm the same as others here tiptoeing around home trying not to wake my wife (who's chronically ill with ME/CFS and would be unwell for days after a disturbed night) in the morning while I get ready for work.

It's interesting Tim that you mentioned a sort of implied silence, just like in film sound ;)

One of the quietest places I've been was a cave about 50ft underground in South Wales. Apart from our own noise and an occasional drip it was total silence. It had the pitch blackness to match too. We all only lasted about 2 or 3 minutes until someone wanted a light turned back on.

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Interesting turn with uncomfortable feeling –  Pretaeperon Oct 28 '10 at 22:58
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I love silence and the concept of it. It doesn't make me uncomfortable at all and it has become a very important component in my life. The quietest experiences I've ever had was twice in Iceland; on a farm a couple of hours from Reykjavik and on a high altitude mountain plain near Thingvellir. Silent notes whenever the wind settled and even the wind gradually muted after some time.

Silence for me is as much a state of mind, what I remember from the icelandic instances is just a warm feeling of just being (in danish "være"), observing everything from a vacuum. I hope to experience that again someday.

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The only times I've been in near-absolute silence - hearing really only my own body - is while caving/spelunking. In fact, an interesting phenomenon is that the silence seemed greater with the lights on, since I was looking outside myself for possible sound sources. With the light doused, I heard the blood rushing in my ears, and my own slow breath - when you focus on such things, they can perceptually seem pretty loud. It was quite amazing, albeit short-lived.

My health and balance requires alternating significant sound and significant quiet, a word I'd use in favor of silence. I love intense, loud music and barely-audible ambient music. I love the yelling of people in the street, and I love hushed rural areas with crickets. Can't have one without the other.

All life requires negative space at regular intervals, spatially, temporally, visually, and aurally. That's what gives us sanity and perspective.

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@NoiseJockey "silence seemed greater with the lights on" - i was thinking about comparison Light/Dark space with Noisy/Quiet and Quiet and Dark place seems for me more natural match than Light and Quiet. Proceeding from a fact that White colour is a mix of all colours in same time, as Noise consists of all frequencies. I would feel uncomfortable in bright quiet space as here is a link with intimacy for me too. –  Pretaeperon Oct 30 '10 at 16:56
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I meditate when I need silence. Just turning myself off from physical noise and chaos.

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Silence (or attempting it) is an essential part of my morning routine right now. Tip-toeing around the house getting ready for work and trying my best not to wake up the baby!

Striving for silence makes me keenly aware of the little sounds around the house I wouldn't normally notice - every creak in the floor, the weird suction sound the fridge makes when you carefully pry the door open, the noise a dimmed incandescent bulb makes, etc.

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I think recently the more silent things are the more unsettled I get! Strange how I always used to hate the sound of a ticking clock in anyone's house if I stayed overnight. Had to take the battery out to sleep! But now, since my girlfriend insists on having a clock in the room I find it hard to sleep if theres NOT the sound of a ticking clock :/ Helps calm me down somehow..

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Like Unicity mentioned, when you have to be quiet, every little sound is a big deal. Although in my case, i wasn't being quiet not to wake up a baby, but to sneak out of my parents house to go do some late night party mischief.... Every little clothing scrub was to much :D.

Also when i lived in Vancouver BC, i was amazed by how much the snow dampened traffic noise... everything sounded so peaceful!

And like Chris, now i wear earplugs all the time.

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wow guys thanx for the answers! so interesting to read! but i didnt expect that some of you will take it literally :) its just expanded a question.

My answer would be - i love silence. My home is planned with everything that can reduce unwanted noises - fridges, computers, clocks... and its so pleasant to be in silent place after all that subway, traffic jams, crowds, Particularly when im not using earplugs. I think when i am working with the sound, i should be especially careful with what i hear and selectively listen only pleasant sounds. Thats why i can say something like "i like silence and only tiny fragile sounds".

Also i like underwater silence. Its like another world...

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Like Tim, I only have a couple of experiences with what felt close to complete silence, and "profound" is definitely the word for the resulting sensation. Both were while location recording - one in a field in Texas, the other in the desert of southern California. I could hear my heartbeat and breathing (if I focused on them), but nothing else. It was eerie, but I loved it.

Another book recommendation -- I found this one quite interesting and relevant. http://www.amazon.com/Zero-Decibels-Quest-Absolute-Silence/dp/1416599592/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1288312435&sr=1-2

(I identified with the author right away when he mentioned the stigma associated with covering one's ears when the subway comes. I always feel like I'm the only guy in L.A. covering my ears to shield from passing fire trucks and ambulances...)

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Silence is a perceptual thing. Yes there is space, anechoic chambers etc. The places that I have found silence- Northern Ontario at night, Northwest Territories, my head. I have managed to record very quiet moments but not silence. I would love to experience underwater silence- must be magical.

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i often leave music playing when i get into bed. i like the fall asleep to it.

i can't hear it while i'm sleeping.

there is a beautiful moment before i wake up, usually about 3 seconds before, when i know i'm sleeping, i acknowledge that i'm sleeping, and i still don't here anything.

and as if someone turned the speakers on, the music starts.

that is as much as i know about silence.

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