May 042005


Noise pollution results when [humankind] does not listen carefully. Noises are the sounds we have learned to ignore. Noise pollution today is being resisted by noise abatement. This is a negative approach. We must seek a way to make environmental acoustics a positive study program. Which sounds do we want to preserve, encourage, multiply? When we know this, the boring or destructive sounds will be conspicuous enough and we will know why we must eliminate them. Only a total appreciation of the acoustic environment can give us the resources for improving the orchestration of the world soundscape. [...] It is an idea over which I do not wish to exercise permanent ownership.

- R. Murray Schafer, Our Sonic Environment and The Soundscape

Schafer passes the baton with this final sentence not only to scientists and social policy makers but to contemporary composers. It is a call for us to become the most adept listeners before we set our pencils to the musical staff, before we send our tones through the loud speakers into the world.

We must have the courage at times to sing with our music as if we wish not to overcome the din of the party, but to be the quietest voice there, the voice that will be heard eventually by all, over time—the most delicious whispering.

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