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Hempton’s Opus: A Quest for Silence

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An AEI book review of:
One Square Inch of Silence: One Man’s Quest for Natural Silence in a Noisy World
Gordon Hempton and John Grossman
Free Press, 2009

After a quarter century of listening to and recording the sounds of the world around him, along the way becoming one of the most respected natural sound producers on the planet, Gordon Hempton has written a book-length reflection on the perilous state of our natural soundscapes.  The story is shaped around a cross-country journey during which Hempton visits a variety of American landscapes, visits allies old and new in his quest to raise awareness about the insidious expansion of human noise, and finally arranges a series of meetings with “movers and shakers” in Washington, DC, to press his cause of creating the nation’s first noise-free zone in Olympic National Park.

Hempton is, of course, a sensitive listener.  The book is best read, it seems to me, as three related but distinct threads, interwoven throughout the telling.  The first is the raison d’etre for the project: to make a case for actively protecting natural quiet (rather than simply reducing noise); here Hempton draws on the voices of a dozen or so other careful listeners, Read the rest of this entry »