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One Square Inch of Silence: One Man's Search for Natural Silence in a Noisy Worldby Gordon Hempton and John Grossmann
Synopses & Reviews
In the visionary tradition of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, One Square Inch of Silence alerts us to beauty that we take for granted and sounds an urgent environmental alarm. Natural silence is our nation's fastest-disappearing resource, warns Emmy-winning acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton, who has made it his mission to record and preserve it in all its variety — before these soul-soothing terrestrial soundscapes vanish completely in the ever-rising din of man-made noise. Recalling the great works on nature written by John Muir, John McPhee, and Peter Matthiessen, this beautifully written narrative, co-authored with John Grossmann, is also a quintessentially American story — a road trip across the continent from west to east in a 1964 VW bus. But no one has crossed America like this. Armed with his recording equipment and a decibel-measuring sound-level meter, Hempton bends an inquisitive and loving ear to the varied natural voices of the American landscape — bugling elk, trilling thrushes, and drumming, endangered prairie chickens. He is an equally patient and perceptive listener when talking with people he meets on his journey about the importance of quiet in their lives. By the time he reaches his destination, Washington, D.C., where he meets with federal officials to press his case for natural silence preservation, Hempton has produced a historic and unforgettable sonic EKG of America.
Imbued with the boundless curiosity of original explorers like LewisandClark, the incisiveness of Jack Kerouac's observations on the road, and the stirring wisdom of Robert Pirsig repairing an aging vehicle and his life, One Square Inch of Silence provides a moving call to action. More than simply a book, One Square Inch of Silence is an actual place, located in one of America's last vestigial naturally quiet places in Olympic National Park in Washington State. Hempton shares some of his favorite recordings of the park's endangered pristine soundscapes on the enclosed CD. This CD also includes wide-ranging recordings and stunning photographs from his pioneering journey, an inspiring quest for quiet that now adds natural silence to the nation's ecological agenda.
"Though many Americans may think their country abounds in places free from human interference, acoustic ecologist and professional sound recordist Hempton readily proves otherwise. Armed with sound monitoring equipment and a well-defined goal-to find a spot that has 'no audible human noise intrusions of any kind for a minimum of 15 minutes'-Hempton drives his VW bus from Seattle to Washington, D.C., visiting national parks and other anticipated sources of silence. Along the way, he contemplates the intricacies of his vehicle, the decline in songbird populations and the effects of noise stress in hospitals, while filling readers in on the basics of audio science. From rural Montana, and what may be the nation's quietest town, to his final hike through the C&O canal, beneath Ronald Reagan National air traffic, Hempton's travelogue is filled with absorbing descriptions of the nation's natural treasures, inviting readers to consider the effects of rare silence against chronic noise, and the difference a single law, to 'prohibit all aircraft from flying over our most pristine national parks,' could make: 'If a loud noise... can affect many square miles, then a natural place, if maintained in a 100 percent noise-free condition, will likewise affect many square miles around it.'." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"After a while we begin to sense that it is silence that is our greatest teacher. The interval between musical notes. The pauses in a play or speech or conversation. The awe-inspiring cloisters of our civilizations. But it is in nature, as this wonderful gem of a book reveals, that we find the real blessing of silence." Ken Burns
About the Author
Gordon Hempton is an acoustic ecologist and Emmy Award-winning sound recordist. For nearly 25 years he has provided professional audio services to musicians, galleries, museums, and media producers, including Microsoft, Smithsonian, National Geographic, Discovery, National Public Radio, and numerous other businesses and organizations. He has received recognition from the Charles A. Lindbergh Fund, National Endowment for the Arts, and the Rolex Awards for Enterprise. He studied botany and plant pathology at the University of Wisconsin. His sound portraits, which record quickly vanishing natural soundscapes, have been featured in People Magazine, a national PBS television documentary, "Vanishing Dawn Chorus," which earned him an Emmy Award for “Outstanding Individual Achievement.” Hempton has now circled the globe three times in pursuit of environmental sound portraits. His new audio series--Environmental Sound Portraits--is the first new work to appear in more than a decade. He lives in Port Angeles, WA. John Grossmann has been a freelance writer of magazine articles and books for nearly all of his working career. He has written on as wide a range of topics as implied by the following list of magazines that have published his work: Air & Space/Smithsonian, Audubon, Cigar Aficionado, Esquire, Geo, Gourmet, Health, Inc., National Geographic Traveler, The New York Times Magazine, Outside, Parade, Saveur, Smithsonian, Sports Illustrated, and USA Weekend. He ghostwrote the 2006 book Smart Moves for Liberal Arts Grads (Ten Speed Press); and before that wrote the 100-year history of one of the nation’s oldest and most successful summer camps, YMCA Camp Belknap, which he attended as a camper and leader and where his two sons have also been campers and leaders.
Table of Contents
Prologue Sounds of Silence
Appendix A Correspondence with James Fallows
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