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A Book of Noises: Notes on the Auraculous.
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When I told people that I was working on a book about sound and noise I was quite often asked if a tree makes a sound when it falls in a forest but there is no one there to hear it? The short answer to this is yes: a trunk crashing down sends vibrations through the air whether or not anyone is listening. That's what sound is. But there is also a way in which the short answer is no, because sound as we usually think of it is an experience of a sentient being (and we tend to assume that trees and rocks are not sentient, or at least not in that way). If that's all you wanted to know, then you can put this book down now. But while these short answers may be true they are also unsatisfactory because there is, I think, often something else lurking behind the question concerning the listener's relation to the universe as represented for them by the forest. That unspoken (and perhaps unconscious) thought, I'd suggest, is something like, will the world really go on without me? It can be hard to get one's head around the idea that the world will continue without the awareness to which we as individuals so often cling. As Alexander von Humboldt wrote in 1800, 'This aspect of animated nature, in which man is nothing, has something in it strange and sad.' Some sounds can be a kind of revelation to those who hear them, and sometimes the experience can be deeply unsettling. In Don DeLillo's novel White Noise, an air-raid siren in a residential neighbourhood that has been mute for a decade or more shrieks back into life, like a sonic monster, 'a territorial squawk from out of the Mesozoic. A parrot carnivore with a DC- 9 wingspan.' And when, in his exploration of the world of those preparing for apocalypse, the writer Mark O'Connell visits a former US Air Force bunker that is being repurposed for end- of-the-world preppers, the sound of its great doors closing is like nothing he has ever heard: 'an overwhelmingly loud and deep detonation, the obliteration of the possibility of any sound but itself'. In a poem by W. S. Merwin, a foghorn becomes a 'throat' that 'does not call to anything human / But to something men had forgotten / That stirs under fog'. And in Apichatpong Weerasethakul's film Memoria, an extremely loud noise heard only by the protagonist foretells (and maybe causes) a descent, or possibly an ascent, into a strange dimension of existence - or annihilation. But revelations in sound can also be comforting and life-expanding, bringing reassurance and beauty in the wide view. This is expressed in comic form by Roald Dahl's Big Friendly Giant, who 'is hearing the little ants chittering to each other as they scuddle around in the soil [and] is sometimes hearing faraway music coming from the stars in the sky'. It takes a mysterious, transcendental form in Jorge Luis Borges's short story 'The Aleph', where the faithful who gather at the great mosque of Amr in Cairo know that the hum of the entire universe can be heard by placing one's ear against one of the stone pillars in its central courtyard. The physician and essayist Lewis Thomas took pleasure in imagining all the non-human sounds of the Earth together: 'If we could listen to them all at once, fully orchestrated, in their immense ensemble,' he writes in 'The Music of This Sphere', 'we might become aware of the counterpoint, the balance of tones and timbres and harmonics, the sonorities.' And in one of his 'Love Letters to the Earth', the Zen monk Thích Nha^ ́t Hanh writes that 'humanity has great ̣composers, but how can our music compare to your celestial harmony with the sun and planets - or to the sound of the rising tide?'. We live in times in which more is being destroyed than is being created. (Extinction rates of non-human forms of life, for example, are much higher now than at any time in Earth's history, including during mass extinction events millions of years ago.) 'Modernity stands at risk of no longer hearing the world and, for this very reason, losing its sense of itself,' writes the sociologist Hartmut Rosa. 'Our greatest fear should perhaps be that we have forgotten how to listen to the living Earth,' adds the biologist David George Haskell, who documents a catastrophic loss of sonic diversity and richness worldwide. And it is precisely because of this that it has never been more important to pay attention. Building on pioneering work a generation ago by the composer R. Murray Schafer and others, ecologists today are increasingly recording 'soundscapes' on land and in the ocean over the seasons and years as a means of assessing the vibrancy and health of ecosystems. By enabling us to listen more carefully and deeply, new technology can help us to limit and even reverse some of the damage that has been done.   Excerpted from A Book of Noises: Notes on the Auraculous by Caspar Henderson All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.
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Booklist Review
Some crickets, including the Oecanthus henryi, can amplify their mating song to double its volume by chewing a hole in a leaf, sticking their head through it, and using the surrounding leaf as a megaphone. Astronomy student Wanda Diaz-Merced counteracted her increasing blindness by translating galactic light into sound, a technique that helped sighted astronomers pick up subtle evidence of a black hole they'd missed visually. And music therapy that employs the rhythm embedded in recorded instrumental music can, using such an "external timekeeper," help Parkinson's patients synchronize their movements in ways their brains, damaged by the disease, would not otherwise allow. Such mind-bending revelations about the nature of sound, in a book gloriously packed with hundreds of them, are delivered with such wonder, detail, and scientific heft by British science writer Henderson that they will delight audiences ranging from widely read--even jaded--adults to elementary-age kids. And the book can be read cover to cover or, as the author even recommends, "by jumping to whatever catches your eye first." A total blast!
Kirkus Review
A splendid survey of the symphony (and spectra) of sound. An inelegant, if precise, title does little justice to a book packed with inestimable beauties, piquant facts, cacophonous din, startling conjecture, and unexpected connections among the human, animal, and inanimate worlds. Henderson, the author of The Book of Barely Imagined Beings and A New Map of Wonders, does not refer to "noise" as disagreeable sound alone. Far from it. He presents a series of fascinating entries across four harmonious categories: "geophony" (sounds of the earth), "biophony" (sounds of life), "anthropophony" (sounds of humanity), and "cosmophony" (sounds of space). Each is rich with wonders, but especially fine are the author's analyses of music in its various forms and sound in the plant and animal realms. Henderson amplifies centuries of research into sound with engrossing cultural (art, literature, film), historical, philosophical, medical, and political references. Immediately apparent is the author's wide-ranging erudition and curiosity, which also embraces pop culture. Although Henderson's immersion in subjects is fascinating, occasionally he gets carried away with technical or historical detail. He presupposes readers have an academic grasp of musical forms, theory, and mathematical bases, for example, which will excite some and impede others. Nonetheless, he blends the rigor of a scientific mind with a lyrical appreciation of both the marvels of sound and the dualities of silence, in particular the relationship between silence and memory. He also demonstrates how hearing predated touch as our first superpower, and he looks for ways that we might forestall seismic testing of our seas and other harmful noise pollution. Fittingly, Henderson says writing the book was his attempt to listen closely, deeply, to the world around him. Readers will be grateful to accompany him on his "earwitness" explorations. This is a writer who thinks, really thinks, though always gives full credit to those who preceded him in sonic studies, quoting them liberally. In sound terminology, Henderson consistently strikes dulcet tones. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
A wide-ranging exploration of the sounds that shape our world in invisible yet significant ways.

The crackling of a campfire. The scratch, hiss, and pop of a vinyl record. The first glug of wine as it is poured from a bottle. These are just a few of writer Caspar Henderson's favorite sounds. In A Book of Noises , Henderson invites readers to use their ears a little better--to tune in to the world in all its surprising noisiness.

Describing sounds from around the natural and human world, the forty-eight essays that make up A Book of Noises are a celebration of all things "auraculous." Henderson calls on his characteristic curiosity to explore sounds related to humans (anthropophony), other life (biophony), the planet (geophony), and space (cosmophony). Henderson finds the beauty in everyday sounds, like the ringing of a bell, the buzz of a bee, or the "earworm" songs that get stuck in our heads. A Book of Noises also explores the marvelous, miraculous sounds we may never get the chance to hear, like the deep boom of a volcano or the quiet, rustling sound of the Northern Lights.

A Book of Noises will teach readers to really listen to the sounds of the world around them, to broaden and deepen their appreciation of the humans, animals, rocks, and trees simultaneously broadcasting across the whole spectrum of sentience.
Table of Contents
Cosmophony: Sounds of Space
First Sounds9
Resonance (1)10
Sound in Space12
Music of the Spheres (1)17
Music of the Spheres (2)23
The Golden Record30
Geophony: Sounds of Earth
Rhythm (1) - Planet Waves37
The Loudest Sound42
The Northern Lights45
Listening to a Rainbow57
Biophony: Sounds of Life
Rhythm (2) - Body63
Ancient Animal Noises75
The Thousand-mile Song of the Whale106
Leviathan, or the Sperm Whale117
Anthropophony: Sound of Humanity
Rhythm (3) - Music and Dance145
How Language Began155
The Magic Flute161
The Nature of Music169
Strange Musical Instruments182
Sad Songs192
Visible Sound205
Plato's Cave209
Noise Pollution216
The Sounds of Climate Change223
Healing with Music234
Healing with Sound244
Resonance (2)265
Some Good Sounds286
References and Further Reading291
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