Monocolumn

A daily bulletin of news & opinion

4 April 2014

Noise has been up for discussion recently. Or a lack of it.

The Formula 1 season is only two races old and already the reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel has described the noise of the new, smaller, neater, cleaner engines as “shit”. In stadia across the world, the noise of football and cricket fans is drowned out by the soundtrack of pre-recorded razzamatazz. There are cars in production, presumably deemed not sporty sounding or snorty enough, that play the engine sound of a more powerful motor into the cabin – can you believe that?

London’s famous George Tavern in Whitechapel, home of artists and hellraisers for 700 years is caught up in a running battle for survival with a council keen to gentrify the fun and games and infamous jukebox out of this historic venue. Even here in London’s riotous Marylebone, one of our local pubs is having a small war aged upon it by a resident who doesn’t like the sound of beer being consumed after 10 o’clock at night. What’s going on? What’s happened to noise?

Noise is hated more than ever. Never mind London’s Saharan dust cloud that’s had 12 million people spluttering and licking their teeth for a week; noise is considered public enemy number one.

Not all noises are equal, of course; one man’s pneumatic drill is another man’s Tchaikovsky. Well, within reason. When I lived in Hampstead, I was sometimes awoken by the sound of horse’s hooves, clip-clopping past Keats Grove before cantering onto the mossy grass of the Heath. Even if the night before was a late one, the nags snuffling and trotting along at dawn outside my window was a lovely way to wake up in a bucolic corner of a big, bad city. The burble of late-night banter outside the pub, the roar of the crowd carried from the Emirates Stadium to Canonbury Square, the lazy beat of a festival wafting through the miles of houses and parks through the hazy summer sun; all of them not noise, really, but a city’s soundtrack and something we’d miss if it were banished.

Funny, isn’t it, how building sites – the physical symbol of upward mobility and gentrification – with all their banging and drilling and their paint-spattered radios of full volume commercial rock are alright but a party often isn’t.

The blanket war on noise is choking some of our finest endeavours and most vibrant communities. Careful how you go in legislating against bonhomie, boozers and what was there before you even thought of turning up on the spot. So help save the George and have a little heart for your city’s heartbeat.

Robert Bound is culture editor for Monocle

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