Noise versus Silence

Judy Huch
October 4, 2016

Noise will continue to be the star at HHTM, in many guises:  sounds of a bat, rude cell phone use, and elitist intellectual-profiling.  Silence emerged as the white knight of tranquility, civil behavior, superior intellect, and upper class entitlement.  It’s an interesting and entertaining juxtaposition of Good and Bad, especially considering our mainly urban lifestyles and love of noisy restaurants.

No doubt, Silence is a salable commodity, as is Comfort in Noise (think noise cancellation headphones).  Equally without doubt, Noise is a valuable and necessary component of being hip for some restaurants, bars and retail locations.  It’s the centerpiece of a 2013 exhibit at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

Notwithstanding known deleterious health effects of noise, it’s hard to say whether Silence or Noise is more valuable in the aggregate, but here, as promised last week, are a random collection of favorite jokes, events, anecdotes, regulations and other evidence in the never ending fight pitting Silence versus Noise.


And in This Corner Weighting in at more than 95 dB,  Heavy Weight Champion Noise 


  • “It’s a city, not a cemetery. You can’t tell everybody to go around wearing earplugs.”  Henry J Stern, former NYC Parks Commissioner

  • “Being an advocate of quiet in our society is as quixotic and ridiculous as being an advocate of beauty or human life or any other unmonetizable commodity.”  NYTimes opinion piece

  • Noise and noise ordinances have been around forever, or at least since the Romans.  Katherine Bouton, NYTimes book review

  • Noise exposure damage can be monetized and be lucrative, even if you work in a French piggery.  Huffington Post

  • “I was at a Mass in the west of Ireland recently, when a mobile phone rang during the service.  It was the priest’s — and he answered it. Give me strength.”  (Letter to the Editor, the Week US, 13 July 2013.)


And in This Corner Weighting in at less than 65 dB,  Bantam Weight Champion Silence


  • A noisemaker’s First Amendment right stops when a listener’s Eighth Amendment right is impaired. Henry J. Stern, former NYC Parks Commissioner 

  • The  US Supreme Court’s 1989 decision to uphold NYC’s noise rule for Central Park’s band shell represented “a victory for the Eighth Amendment, which protects people from cruel and unusual punishment. ”  Henry J. Stern, former NYC Parks Commissioner

  • “Shouting usually doesn’t get your point across in discussions, in speakers at the drive-through, or in TV commercials. The key is raising the level of creativity, not the volume.” Kevin Brockman, ABR spokesman

  • Digital video recorders are now present in nearly 40 percent of American households, and they are more effective than any set of earplugs.

  • Noisy Hospital initiatives for quiet times:

    •  “Shhh”  — Silent Hospitals Help Healing

    • “HUSH”  — Help Us Support Healing

    • Sound meters in the shape of traffic lights or human ears that turn green when the noise level is acceptable, yellow when it increases, and red when it goes above the acceptable range. 

And our personal favorite:

“Say what you like about the rolling Stones, they probably won’t hear you.” (Joke on twitter)


It’s a Draw


Although there’s something quaint about thinking of 80-year-old rock stars living in a quiet world, it seems that there is no clear winner in the Silence vs Noise championships.  Even the oft-quoted Henry Stern (above) puts his money on both sides of the fight.

Mr Stern may not be able to make up his mind, but how about you?  


photo is portion of a Santorini fresco

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