The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for January 6th, 2012

audient void

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Much is made of the various pollution vectors which we lucky few are exposed to daily, here in the Newtown Pentacle. The air is heavy with ash and soot, hopelessly mingled with sewer effluent and automotive exhaust, and smells a little “odd”. The water is ruined, as is the soil itself, and there’s that whole “Creek thing”. What I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, however, is something a bit less tangible.

It’s the noise.

from wikipedia

Noise pollution is excessive, displeasing human, animal or machine-created environmental noise that disrupts the activity or balance of human or animal life. The word noise comes from the Latin word nauseas, meaning seasickness.

The source of most outdoor noise worldwide is mainly construction and transportation systems, including motor vehicle noise, aircraft noise and rail noise. Poor urban planning may give rise to noise pollution, since side-by-side industrial and residential buildings can result in noise pollution in the residential area.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

These photos are from the heart of industrial Maspeth- a bleak moonscape of rail siding, oil streaked truck routes, and a maelstrom of construction and demolition- and illustrate prime and obvious offenders. Their usage is a bit disingenuous, because the kind of aural pollution which I’m wondering about is the “hum”.

Not some paranoid’s imagined perception of radio waves, that’s a Taos thing– but simply the aggregate melody of millions of engines, electrical transformers, air conditioners, tires on pavement, etc.

from wikipedia

Environmental noise regulations usually specify a maximum outdoor noise level of 60 to 65 dB(A), while occupational safety organizations recommend that the maximum exposure to noise is 40 hours per week at 85 to 90 dB(A). For every additional 3 dB(A), the maximum exposure time is reduced by a factor 2, e.g. 20 hours per week at 88 dB(A). Sometimes, a factor of two per additional 5 dB(A) is used. However, these occupational regulations are acknowledged by the health literature as inadequate to protect against hearing loss and other health effects.

With regard to indoor noise pollution in residences, the U.S. EPA has not set any restrictions on limits to the level of noise. Rather, it has provided a list of recommended levels in its Model Community Noise Control Ordinance, which was published in 1975. For instance, the recommended noise level for indoor residences is less than or equal to 45 dB. Noise pollution control in residences is not funded by the federal government in part because of the disagreements in establishing causal links between sounds and health risks, since the effect of noise is often psychological and also because it leaves no singular tangible trace of damage on the human body. For instance, hearing loss could be attributed to a variety of factors including age, rather than solely due to excessive exposure to noise. However, a state or local government is able to regulate indoor residential noise, such as when excessive noise from within a home causes disturbances to nearby residences.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A noticeable silence hung heavily around Astoria this past holiday weekend, and much to the delight of second story men, two thirds of the neighborhood disappeared for holiday excursions. For around two days, it was actually fairly quiet. It was January 2nd, at least, before the honking and constant vibrato of traffic resumed it’s omnipresence.

One wonders what the effect is, biologically, of living in such a saturation of sound.

One also wonders what sounds- what music of the spheres- may lie just beyond the dross auditory senses of men…

from wikipedia

The human auditory system is sensitive to frequencies from about 20 Hz to a maximum of around 20,000 Hz, although the upper hearing limit decreases with age. Within this range, the human ear is most sensitive between 2 and 5 kHz, largely due to the resonance of the ear canal and the transfer function of the ossicles of the middle ear.

Equal-loudness contours were first measured by Fletcher and Munson using headphones (1933). In their study, listeners were presented with pure tones at various frequencies and over 10 dB increments in stimulus intensity. For each frequency and intensity, the listener was also presented with a reference tone at 1000 Hz. The reference tone was adjusted until it was perceived to be of the same loudness as the test tone. Loudness, being a psychological quantity, is difficult to measure, so Fletcher and Munson averaged their results over many test subjects to derive reasonable averages. The lowest equal-loudness contour represents the quietest audible tone and is also known as the absolute threshold of hearing.

The highest contour is the threshold of pain.

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 6, 2012 at 12:15 am

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