Monday, October 17, 2005

Dramatic silence explained

Early this morning at about 3.30am, I had a supper of two slices of toast. Curious about the ambient temperature, I heaved open one of the windows for a whiff of outdoor nocturnal breeze.

As soon as the glass panes parted company, the silence from outside floored indoors like a surging wave of thick, transparent, lumpy, luminiferous porridge. Like pouring cheesecake mix into an intricately shaped mould, the curdled syrup of silence rapidly filled the large open spaces in my apartment before slowly seeping into the tapering nooks and narrow crannies. It was awe inspiring.

It was also shocking, to say the least. It would not be surprising if noise crept in from an open window, but to see the same effect with silence is an eye opener. After all, silence is just no-noise, not anti-noise or noise-inverse or negative-noise.

Here are some conjectures and fantasies designed to help explain the phenomenon of the surging syrup of silence.

Dramatic silence occurs when quiet noises can be heard. The situation does not need to be absolutely devoid of noise to qualify as dramatic silence. For example, late at night in Melbourne, the streets are devoid of traffic. Sometimes I can hear a motor vehicle, but it’s usually far away. Other times, rebellious birds make themselves known by chirping recklessly at 4am. It is these muted sounds that elevate silence to dramatic silence. In the afternoon, these sounds would certainly be drowned out by constant drone of traffic and aged trams rattling on their rails.

The phrase “so quiet you can hear a pin drop” is often used to describe silence. However, if a pin actually dropped and you do hear it go “plink”, the silence would be even more dramatic.

In a room, silence is usually exaggerated by a clock’s ticking, or another person’s breathing. If you were alone, and there was no clock, it would simply be a quiet but boring room.

Going back to the phenomenon of the surging syrup of silence, I can only conclude that the apartment was in a boring state of silence with only the annoying whine of computer fans as company. Opening the window let in the sounds of far away motor vehicles, highlighting that there were no other noises that usually masks these sounds.

Applications of the phenomenon of the surging syrup of silence

The most obvious manner to take advantage of dramatic silence is to manufacture dramatic silence. If you could make loud noises that sound like they are far away, or amplify sounds that are naturally soft, you can possibly make the area sound like it is quiet.

The simplest application of this manufactured silence is in the sale of enclosed spaces. If quiet is a good selling point (usually valid for luxury cars and residential property), then it might pay to install clocks with exceptionally loud ticking to trick the potential buyer. The salesperson could go something like, “Ooo…do you hear that? This car/place is so quiet you can actually hear the clock/my watch tick!”

And since clocks generally tick ahead with minimal noise, the unaware buyer might be in for a royal screw.