Five noise books for a quiet bank holiday read

ONoise  – Read all about it

With a long Bank Holiday weekend ahead what better than a quiet read? Over the last few years a wealth of books have been published on aspects of noise and sound.  Sound is important in everything we do – we need it for information, enjoy (or are sometimes annoyed by) natural sounds like the waves and birdsong, and it is an essential part of entertainment and fun. However, the wrong sound in the wrong place becomes noise – disturbing our sleep, work or relaxation, and it is increasingly difficult to escape the sounds of our modern society.

The science of sound and noise has many applications – in managing impacts of transport,  acoustics of buildings, the sounds of products and entertainment and even our outdoor spaces.  The history of the sounds of our world reflects our developing societies and where noise gets too much, campaigners have fought – and are still working working to keep the peace.

Here, in order of publication, are books published in the last few years by some of the many dedicated and knowledgeable noise and sound specialists – which can provide a quiet read over the Bank Holiday weekend. If you know of any more let us know!

  • Why Noise Matters – John Stewart et al, 2011

Co-authored by seasoned noise campaigners including John Stewart and Val Weedon of the UK Noise Association, this book considers whether noise is the most neglected aspect of our environment.  It examines a selection of issues, campaigns and possible solutions using worldwide examples.

  • Discord – Dr Mike Goldsmith, 2012

Author Mike Goldsmith knows his noise – an experienced acoustician and science writer, he outlines the science of sound, and charts the beginnings of noise from the trumpets of the earliest Olypmics  to modern day technology and its  impacts on aspect of our lives. He also sounds a note of hope as to how our increasing knowledge about noise can help us retain some quieter space.


  • The Great Animal Orchestra – Bernie Krause, 2013

Bernie Krause began his interest in sound as a musician – playing with many bands in the 1960s. However his lifelong interest in recording and documenting natural soundscapes inform this enlightening book. As well as describing some of the sound wonders of the world, it documents how loss of natural sounds reflects environmental damage, and highlights the importance sound plays to ecosystems,  how some of these sounds are being drowned in the sounds of humans, and the importance of listening to the biophony around us.


  • Noise – A Human History of Sound and Listening – David Hendy, 2013

While setting out to write about sound, Prof David Hendy  came to realise that sound and noise are difficult to separate. Aired in 2013 as a series on BBC R4, his cultural history of the sounds of our societies – and the impact and influence it has on us – took him across continents. He considers  how noise reflects both the rituals and the structures of societies. Demonstrating that noise pollution is nothing new he documents demonstration of noise control past and present – including a Parisian massacre in 1730, when apprentices exhausted by being kept awake by howling  cats disposed of the offending felines.


  • Sonic Wonderland – Trevor Cox, 2014

Trevor Cox, professor of acoustics at Salford University shares his the joy in the science of sound on this wide ranging quest for wierd acoustic phenomena. He visits sewers, abandoned installations and viaducts seeking the ultimate reverberation, and in the course of his travels infects the reader with his enthusiasm for exploration of the aural world that is so often neglected.  Could sound tourism be the next big thing?


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