Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Sound Leakage

I wrote an article about Office Noise for current issue of National Post Business Magazine. If you blow 50 cents on today’s National Post (Tuesday, October 7), you’ll find my article Noises Off.

I started working on the article in December, then watched it get put on hold sometime in late February / early March. Instead of giving up completely and wheedling for a kill fee, I slowly did more research and found some amazing material, including The Soundscape of Modernity, courtesy of Collision Detection. Bless you Clive.

When the article was finally given the green light again, in early August, I discovered I had too much material, instead of my usual problem of not enough. So I’m offering readers two unused literary references to office noise, plus two great CBC radio links:

Noise, or the lack of it, is also considered a badge of status, used to indicate prestige and power. The less noise you have to endure, the more important you must be. In Scoop, a parody of journalism by humourist Evelyn Waugh, a hapless country garden columnist named William Boot, through the usual brittle comedy-of-errors route, finds himself gliding into the inner sanctum of Lord Copper, the editor-and-chief of the Daily Beast, a London ragsheet. From the hectic front desk on the ground floor (where pneumatic tubes transport messages throughout the building) to the pit of writers, past the secretary pool, Boot is led eventually to the personal quarters of Lord Copper: "The carpets were thicker here, the lights softer, the expressions of the inhabitants more care-worn. The typewriters were of a special kind; the telephone buzzers were muffled and purred like warm cats."

In The Satanic Verses, a character named Ellowen Deeowen contemplates the stories she wanted to share her deceased lover Saladin, including "a new high-rise office building in Brickhall High Street, across from McDonald’s; -- they built it to be perfectly sound-proof, but the workers were so disturbed by the silence that now they play tapes of white noise on the tannoy system."

And, as promised, here is a fascinating and horrifying report on Easy Rock in the workplace and an enjoyable, but less sharply observed piece about loud co-workers. Enjoy.