Taking Comfort in the Sound of Silence

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Original Air Date: 
December 09, 2017

Restaurants, bars, coffee shops — is there any public place left that doesn’t play background music? Loudly? In this show, we’re making the case for more silence. Because perhaps some need the drone of TVs, traffic and Muzak, to drown out the pesky sound of thinking, but others go to great lengths to find respite from a blaringly loud world.

A lonely Antartic landscape.

In 1993, Norwegian explorer Erling Kagge became the first person to cross Antarctica alone. It took him 50 days. The thing that had the biggest impact on him was the silence.

A salmon-colored rock marks the spot of the One Square Inch project
Photo Gallery

One of the quietest places in the U.S. is a spot inside the Hoh Rain Forest in the Olympic National Park in Washington. It's called "One Square Inch of Silence." And it was created by the acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton.

Reaching for 0 decibels

The world is getting noisier and it's hurting us. When George Mickelson Foy got worried about all of the toxic noise in his life, he set on a quest for absolute silence.

Not playing

John Cage’s "4’33” was first performed on August 29th, 1952, by pianist David Tudor. He came out on stage, sat at the piano, and did not play. The audience was not impressed. Kyle Gann tells the story in “No Such Thing as Silence."

Marcel Marceau

For more than 60 years, the great French mime Marcel Marceau dominated stages around the world without ever saying a word. Shawn Wen documents Marceau's story in a book-length essay called “A Twenty Minute Silence Followed by Applause.”

rock and roll

For author Jennifer Egan — whose novel "A Visit From The Goon Squad" documents the inner life of lifelong rock and roll stars—the pauses in rock ballads might say as much or more than the riffs.

Show Details 📻
December 09, 2017
August 04, 2018
April 27, 2019
February 22, 2020
Erling Kagge
Explorer, Lawyer, Art Collector, Publisher, Author
Gordon Hempton
Acoustic Ecologist, Sound Recordist
George Michelsen Foy
Novelist, Non-Fiction Writer, Creative Writing Professor
Kyle Gann
Composer, Author
Shawn Wen
Writer, Radio Producer, Multimedia Artist
Last modified: 
April 29, 2020