Posts Tagged sound

My cocoon of sound

I work in an open plan office.  My boss sits just a few desks away in the same room. My coworkers are not particularly noisy and they’re certainly pleasant. But their very presence is a distraction.

I do not like silence. The office is silent in that there is no music, pleasant or otherwise. This already makes work less pleasant. But it is not really silent. Distracting sounds pervade the room. Innocuous banter between coworkers, discussions about work that has nothing to do with me, people walking, chairs creaking, papers rustling. Just the knowledge that when I look up, I will see seem other human being is distracting. It isn’t just that what people do that makes me less productive – it is just that they are there.

I keep feeling like, if I just go sit in my room, I’ll be able to solve whatever is puzzling me at that moment. But of course, I can’t. And my introvert batteries keep getting drained. I have found one thing that helps. Music, of course. I put on my headphones, play some classical music and it’s like a wall goes up between me and the rest of the room. I can actually focus. All those little annoying sounds fade into the background. Noisy discussions are rendered less distracting – sometimes I need to turn up the volume.

It’s like being in my own little cocoon of sound. I go home feeling less tired. If I could, I would forgo all interaction with my colleagues (except perhaps during lunch). I’d love to be somewhere on my own (preferably at home), doing everything I need to do via email, my speakers blasting Vaughn-Williams or the Star Wars OSTs.

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A deeper silence

One of the most striking differences for me between my home in South Africa and Amsterdam is something I find hard to describe. It has something to do with sound or at least an impression of sound. It feels to me that Amsterdam is (almost) always silent. But this silence seems to not only be in the sounds of the city – even when I am next to a road and I hear the cars drive by, still it feels quiet. In the Centrum, in the midst of the bustle of tourists, it is not quiet, but mostly everywhere else, this quiet is like a thick fog, dulling all the other sounds.

Perhaps there are sounds from home that I am used that are just not present here – I lived near a dam with geese and ducks, so perhaps an absence of bird sounds. Somehow it strikes me as something deeper though – something in the nature of this city, the nature of Dutchness, that is more aloof and, yes, even more cold (and I’m not referring to temperature) than home. But also peaceful and calm, despite of cars and traffic and people.

I think there are few cities as quiet as Amsterdam. And Amsterdam on a Sunday morning (when almost no one is awake or about), when I bike to church, is as quiet as an undisturbed meadow or a forest. The sounds of people seem more like the sounds of birds and deer or other wildlife.

Not long after arriving in Amsterdam, I remember thinking about this quiet, trying to draw inspiration from it and I could only find the following lines:

In this quiet city
	music lights the darkness
and i feel a little less lonely

If you want to read about my other impressions of Amsterdam, see the posts The church in the redlight district and Being a mathematician in Amsterdam. My thanks to all those who have liked, reblogged or commented on previous posts. As always, any comments on this post are welcome.

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