It is difficult to imagine a city without noise. However, the Noise Abatement Society’s objective is to raise awareness and solve noise pollution and noise issues, believing that these can cause ill health and cause mental distress. (Noise Abatement Society, 2017). However, Ari Kelman’s theory that “sound is one of the characteristics that makes a city a city” (Kelman, 2010: 217) contradicts this and suggests that urban dwellers would be comfortable with city noises. This does not, however, explain why they choose to take their music into the public space. This blurs the lines of private and public because a music listening experience does not have to end once the listening leaves the home. They can take their music with them, creating and playing selected playlists to suit their current mood or what they would like their mood to be as they move through the city. Bull reinforces this, believing music to impact the atmosphere of spaces, (Bull, 2000 in Behrendt, 2012: 287), and according to Behrendt, this sound is immersive (Behrendt, 2012: 288).
Listening to music through headphones also concerns the Noise Abatement Society and they have set up the Love Your Ears campaign to try to prevent teenagers listening to their music too loudly while on the move. (Noise Abatement Society, 2017).
Behrendt discusses Bull’s theory that urban dwellers use music to manage their mood, in turn warming up their private space but chilling the environment for everyone else. (Bull, 2007 in Behrendt, 2012: 284). This is because it is a private activity so others cannot hear what is being listening to, unless it is very loud, so can be seen as isolating. This solitary isolation is echoed by Bull when he states “solitariness and the daily movement of people through the city are two dominant hallmarks of contemporary urban experience.” (Bull, 2007: 5).
According to Bull, in the age of the iPod, any city space has the potential to be a ‘non-space,’ thus having no meaning, the music urban dwellers take with them throughout the city then fills this space and helps to create it into something meaningful for the listener.
With an increased amount of people listening to mobile music through their smartphones and the rise of noise cancelling headphones, perhaps this explains the Noise Abatement Society’s aim to make cities quieter, for example with delivery lorries making less noise (Noise Abatement Society, 2017). With a quieter city, urban dwellers are free to create and manipulate the public sonic space to best suit their mood.
Behrendt, F. 2012. The Sound of Locative Media. Convergence: The International Journal of research into New Media Technologies. 18(3): 284-288.
Bull, M. 2007. Sound Moves: iPod Culture and Urban Experience. Oxon: Routledge. Pp. 5.
Kelman, A. 2010. Rethinking the Sound Scape: A Critical Genealogy of a Key Term in Sound Studies. London: Taylor and Francis. Pp.217.
Noise Abatement Society. 2017. ‘Who We Are.’ Noise Abatement Society. Available at: http://noiseabatementsociety.com/about-us/who-we-are/ (Accessed 17/02/17).