Emma Quayle

'Node' - Associate, Edinburgh Napier University

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What does quiet mean to you?

I am collaborating on the project Stereopublic 'crowd sourcing the quiet' devised by Jason Sweeney, and have been busy populating it for it's UK launch at TED Global. As I walk around looking for quiet spots, either by myself or with friends, the question 'so, what constitutes quiet?' comes up again and again.

There are many different interpretations of 'quiet', ask an acoustician and you would likely be told somewhere around about 30 dB. For others, it is the sound of the sea, being able to hear the birds, or maybe simply somewhere that is 'quieter' in comparison to the noisy environment that they were in previously...

What does quiet mean to you?

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    Jun 11 2013: That's my definition of "quiet". I can't describe it to you, but I can let you experience it. So take a look to this interesting project: http://thequietplaceproject.com/thequietplace
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        Jun 12 2013: That quiet place is incredible,hhn?

        I agree that the sound of nature not an opposite of quiet,but it enhances quiet. wherever we are,empty our mind,we can create quiet.
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      Jun 12 2013: Wow, what a beautiful place! Thank you for sharing that :)
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    Jun 12 2013: For me, quiet means the sound of nature. When you don't hear the phone ringing, no tv, no cars only the natural sounds that come from a natural environment. Imagine you are in the middle of a forest. Your can hear the wind, you can hear the birds, grasshoppers and other things. For me that's quiet. Even rain with it's constant melody is kind of relaxing and quiet for me. I actually don't really like it, when I'm in a room, where you can't hear anything.
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    W. Ying

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    Jun 12 2013: .
    My answer:

    According to our instincts or our ancestors' successful experiences formed 10,000 years ago,
    "quiet" contains certain amount of sounds in the nature (from birds, insects, waters, rain, etc.),
    that make the best conditions for keeping our DNA alive.
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    . .

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    Jun 12 2013: ....nature, for the most part..rain drops..birds chirping....breeze in the trees...
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    Jun 11 2013: In a quiet environment one hears subtle outdoor sounds, like birds chirping, water flowing,a squirrel hopping, or maybe leaves rustling. Right now I hear birds chirping outside though the windows are closed, the dog snoring inside (technically not quiet but calmly rhythmic), and what I assume is the sound of something fan-like within the refrigerator.

    I associate quiet with calm, which is why the dog's snoring doesn't disqualify my image to me. The sound of waves crashing on an empty morning beach would not disqualify it.

    Alternatively, there is a background level of outdoor sound that is significantly buffered when the ground is covered with snow. That difference from the norm before the city wakes is also a quiet.
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    R H

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    Jun 11 2013: When we're waiting for someone to take their shot on the golf course, no one talks or really even moves. The beautiful landscaped grounds are silent except for the sound of birds or the wind. Then, the whoosh of the swing, the contact with the little ball, and more silence as we watch the flight to see where it lands. The level of silence after that is determined by its position :)
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      Jun 11 2013: Yes, there are a lot of golf courses around Edinburgh, and they are definitely some of the quieter places to go to. Some of the quiet spots I have posted up on the stereopublic app are around the Mortonhall Golf course (Maybe you'll have time to visit if you're in Edinburgh right now) I hadn't linked quietness to the golf, as I don't play, but I can picture (aurally :)) what you write. I wonder if 'quietness' is in a way 'amplified' by interrupted sound. Similar in a way to the use of meditation bells - bringing you into the present - which of course in the case of golf where part of the 'silence' is the anticipation of where the ball will land, you would be. Is quietness in this case therefore synonymous to presence?
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        R H

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        Jun 12 2013: thanks for responding. I don't know if presence is 'synonymous' with quietness. To appreciate the quiet, we must be 'present', be 'in the moment' of the quiet, but I don't know if the words would be 'synonymous'. On the other hand, I can see how quietness is 'amplified' by interrupted sound. It gives us reference to the level of quiet. Possibly the level of quiet is a 'range', impacted by the relative intensity of corresponding 'noise'. I once saw a short televised program about a researcher who was looking for the quietest spot on earth. It was in a wood somewhere. He compared the quiet in relation to corresponding 'noise'. Regarding meditation bells, my understanding is that the tones produced by the bells are vibrations that generate energy responses in us, parallel to acupuncture's manipulation of energy fields but through tonal absorption instead - but i'm no expert in the craft. This takes me to the study of vibration, of which 'quiet' would be the absence of vibration? If then this is so, then in absolute quiet would we 'hear' our own vibration? There are those who claim the gift of 'seeing' people's energy fields. Are there those who can 'hear' one's vibrational resonance? What do you think of this train of thought? Is there any research or experiences you've come across? Your mention of the meditation bells brought me this way, but I don't know if there's any substance to it. thnx.
  • Jun 12 2013: By myself
  • Jun 12 2013: We just had a huge thunderstorm blow through here.
    I stood at the door and listened.

    It was beautifully quiet.....all I heard was nature and all it's force.
  • Jun 12 2013: To me being in a quiet place, is a place where I can hear myself think.

    I will share this small story with you.
    This week I evaluated a 5 year old child.
    While she was attentively trying to complete the evaluation I gave her, I rustled some papers.
    She said, "shh, I need peace and quiet", she said it matter-of-factly, without raising her eyes to me.
    I apologized and then sat very still and quiet.
    Where did she learn to want "peace and quiet"?
    Well, she is homeschooled, and her mom has an eleven month old baby as well.
    So I imagine, and I say, I imagine, because I didn't come out and ask, I imagine that the five year old has learned early in life to value quiet spaces so that she might concentrate on important things.

    Thanks for the two links to those talks Emma, I had not seen them.
    They were truly enjoyable, and I will share them with others.