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The Unwanted Sound of Everything We Want: A Book About Sound    by Garret Keizer Amazon.com order for
Unwanted Sound of Everything We Want
by Garret Keizer
Order:  USA  Can
PublicAffairs, 2010 (2010)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

In many instances one man's noise can be another's music, which illustrates why noise or the perception of it can be a rather subjective problem. In The Unwanted Sound of Everything We Want: A Book About Noise, Garret Keizer examines noise and its political ramifications, the connection between one's income and noise exposure, and how sound, in general, affects our daily lives.

A hallmark of industrial development, noise has emerged as a significant cause of stress, disease and environmental degradation. As the author explains, it should come as no surprise that noise carries a number of adverse and well-documented physiological consequences: deafness, tinnitus, high blood pressure, heart disease, low birth-weight, even statistically significant reductions in life spans.

The author further believes that noise provides a key for understanding some of our most pressing issues, from social inequality to climate change.

Lest one think that Keizer is blowing the noise issue way out of proportion, consider the facts: an estimated one out of eight children in America suffers from noise-induced hearing loss, and a decade ago over two million people in the country were affected by aviation noise. What must the number be today?

Part One of this investigation of noise and its effects on humans attempts to define the phenomenon of noise and look at some of the political implications of noise.

Examining noise, putting it on trial if you will, requires calling expert witnesses from many fields: physicians, physicists, musicologists, philosophers, psychologists, artists, historians, explains the author.

After the second part of the book offers a brief history of noise, Part III seeks to give a broader perspective to the information presented in the first two sections. First, Keizer focuses his attention on noise in America and the many sources of noise that have originated here.

If we equate noise with power and clout or, if you prefer, with the ability to generate 'shock and awe' then America is the loudest country in the world today, probably the loudest that has ever existed, the author writes.

The discussion then moves on to the relationship of noise to issues of sustainable living. Keizer's contention is that the more sustainable, equitable, and convivial a society becomes, the less noisy it will be.

The concluding section of this treatise on noise seeks to accomplish two things. It offers a summation of the book's main arguments and adjusts the volume on any argument that might have gotten too loud.

With over 100 pages of material, including a timeline, notes, and an extensive bibliography, it is obvious that this book is more than just one man's rant against too much noise. Garret Keizer did his homework before he sat down to share his thoughts and, although he does tend to digress at times, he will strike a meaningful cord with many readers.

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