SHUT UP! Sound familiar? If you work in the arts or do anything vaguely interesting with your life, you’ve probably had this phrase or variously profane iterations hurled at you more often than you’d like. We’ve all heard the stories of people who move next to bars and complain about the noise (if you can’t figure out that bars make noise, then disturbance to your serenity is most likely the least of your problems). But what about the smaller operations? Indie theatre companies, folk musicians and other dregs of society?
Last year we hosted an intimate theatre performance at our house that had an audience of 25 people and featured three actors talking for around an hour with no amplified music or sound of any kind. It was basically a dinner party with only three of the guests doing all the talking. Our show ran for a grand total of five nights.
The neighbours across the street were furious. The noise, they claimed, was unreasonable. On the night of our second last performance, they decided to protest the disturbance of the peace by blasting triple M at an insane volume. I went over to talk it out and endured several minutes of screaming about the fact that we were making too much noise. I considered raising the delicate concept of irony but decided to pick my battles. I assured our neighbour that we only had one remaining show and then he could go back to his life of staring rancorously at passersby for the rest of his days.
Then our other neighbours – who hadn’t screamed at us but had also told us in no uncertain terms that they thought that the show had been ‘too noisy’ – started renovations. And when I say renovations, I mean they tore away one side of their house and built three new rooms. This went on for around four months, usually starting around 6am (earlier than the legally allowed commencement). When the renovations were finally complete, we all breathed a sigh of relief…until their new baby arrived the following week. Have you met a babyperson before? They can be quite adorable, it’s true, but they also come equipped with advanced sonic weaponry that grants them the ability to obliterate the eardrums of everything within a 300m radius and also disrupt the sonar capabilities of any bats or dolphins in the same timezone.
There are many people (like me) for whom making a reasonable amount of noise is part of their livelihood. When you tell them to shut up you may as well be walking into a restaurant and telling the proprietors to stop producing so many cooking-related scents. Obviously, people don’t have the right to crank up Skrillex at 2am because that’s just fucking unreasonable (and also displays terrible taste in music). But if your neighbours are rehearsing for (or performing) a show, try and show the same consideration that they show you when your goddamn baby screams at three in the morning. Now I know what you’re going to say, you don’t HAVE to work in the arts. Well, that’s true, but only in the sense that you don’t HAVE to have children or renovate your house. Take a moment to think how you’d feel if someone knocked on your door and said “Look, I’m trying to watch Australia’s Biggest Loser Idol’s Kitchen Rules and your child is really fucking loud. You really shouldn’t have ever procreated. Is there any way that you take your screaming progeny back to the babyfactory so I can hear who they vote as this week’s best emotional meltdown dancer?”
Quiet for it’s own sake isn’t always a good sign in any case. If you’ve seen any action movie ever you’ll know what follows the line “It’s quiet….too quiet…” is usually a large amount of bloodletting and/or explosives. Societies that are too quiet on the whole usually have something very creepy or oppressive going on, as shown in this very informative documentary:
If you really want to live in a world where you hear nothing but the sounds of your favourite reality TV show or talkback host I have a solution for you: noise-cancelling headphones. A decent pair will set you back around the same price as one of the many massages you’d probably require on a weekly basis if you spent your entire life being stressed out and complaining about your fellow humans discourteously producing decibel levels greater than a bunch of Buddhist monks on a vipassana retreat.
One simple purchase will allow you to enjoy all of the infomercials and hate-crime inciting current affairs programs you want without the outside world disturbing you. Hell, with these things on there could be a zombie apocalypse raging outside and you wouldn’t notice because you’d be so engrossed watching one of the many zombie apocalypse TV shows currently on offer.