Noise has recently become a fashionable subject of academic study and speculation – I reviewed two new books on the subject barely two years ago, and here comes another, covering virtually the same territory. This wave of interest in the concept isn’t spurious, however. As the acoustician Mike Goldsmith makes clear in the opening paragraph of this chatty, accessible and vivacious work of popular science, there’s a hell of a racket going on everywhere, and despite ever more strenuous official efforts to quell the din, it’s only going to get worse. We need to start thinking about it, from the beginning (though the Big Bang, we are told, was actually silent).
A weed has been defined as a plant out of place, and perhaps the same could be said of the relationship between noise and sound. One man’s ghastly noise – a heavy metal track, for example – is another man’s sweet music. Nor is the offence to be measured simply