08 Slouka

8 Listening for Silence: Notes on the Aural Life
Mark Slouka

Mark Slouka (b. 1958), the son of Czech immigrants, is currently the director of the writing program at the University of Chicago and author of such books as War of the Worlds: Cyberspace and the High-Tech Assault on Reality and God's Fool, named a Best Book of the Year by the San Francisco Chronicle.

In this essay, Mark Slouka expounds upon the state of chaos with which our modern ears have to contend. Like R. Murray Schafer, Slouka says that modern life has become so complicated with the advent of cell phones, laptops, portable gaming devices, and other noise polluting devices and actions, that silence has become a highly marketable commodity that we desire. He states, "Money buys space, and space buys silence; decibels and dollars are inversely proportional." This can be seen, as Slouka points out, on any "upscale travel magazine."

Ironically, however, he likens the concept of complete silence to death. He also states that, by barely less of a severe degree, silence is like complete submission in a totalitarian state. In other words, we crave the silence and its associated relaxation, yet it is also a source of incomprehensible fear. I tend to agree with Slouka on this matter. It is an interesting conundrum that one of the things we want most can also be the source of such extreme anxiety. To put it crudely, as Slouka does so often, would it be better to sit in your poorly insulated apartment home and listen to every intimate moment that your neighbors engage in, or to be thrown into compete censorship by your government? Another issue that the former situation brings up is the concept of noise pollution: What do you do to drown out your neighbors' sex sounds? You blast the volume on your TV or stereo. Therein lies the aural problem of the new millennium: A competition of noises that, according to some, could lead to the entire population's total deafness, as far fetched as that might be.

Short biography at www.bookbrowse.com

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