Listen: Is that a sound or a noise?


In most of the posts in my listening series, I share some music that I’ve discovered, hoping that it’ll bring you pleasure. Today’s listening post is different: it features a website that El Guapo brought to my attention, and one of its main purposes is to help you when you can’t escape listening to things you don’t want to hear.

Before we get there, let’s consider the distinction between noise and sound. In a way it relates to one definition of a weed, that is, a plant that’s growing someplace you don’t want it to.* Perhaps a sound you don’t want to be hearing is a noise.

Some of the most irksome experiences I can recall have involved noise that I couldn’t escape. I’m thinking now of jack hammers being used directly through our apartment wall as workers removed the brick facade of our Spanish apartment building three years ago. It made our attempts to concentrate on Ninja’s home school lessons nearly impossible. Then there was the  pounding rock music of the 1-4 am concerts for many nights of Las Fallas celebrations that we couldn’t escape in that same apartment.†

This is a slightly more elaborate setup, but based on our attempts to get to sleep, the noise was about the same.


I’m not very skilled at filtering out other people’s conversations, which makes me glad that I generally do freelance work in my own space. The last time I tried getting work done in an office surrounded by co-workers, I ended up finding a meeting room to escape to.

I’m also not overly fond of the music that gets blasted at the gym during a workout, or of the TV playing in every waiting room. But I’m not generally in a good position to find the off switch (though I have tried–when cooling my heels in a doctor’s office waiting room by myself, I silence the beast if I can reach the controls).

When you can’t turn it off, sometimes you can use something to intervene, and that brings us to The name doesn’t really line up with the distinction I made between sound and noise, unless we say that to combat someone else’s noise, you might as well bring your own noise to be your champion.


Fairmont Park, Philadelphia


Here’s how the website describes myNoise: “If the Internet were a busy town, myNoise would be its quiet public park. People come here to sit and relax, refresh their energy, and reconnect with their center.”

So, there’s masking sounds you don’t want to hear, and there’s generating sounds to help you relax, and myNoise can help with both. But enough words. Here are some samples of sounds to try.


Northern Lights

Duduk Song

Irish Coast

Japanese Garden


The website’s introduction video goes into various finer points. I haven’t needed them yet—I just keep returning to the sounds of the Irish coast.

Cliffs of Moher


If you’re interested in learning about the negative effects of too much noise, you can check out this Ted talk. Here’s a quick teaser fact: a recent study showed that the US economy could save 3.9 billion dollars annually by lowering noise by five decibels, just in terms of the cost of treating cardiovascular disease.

If you’d like to learn more about sound and its place in our lives, Krista Tippett did an On Being interview with Gordon Hempton, an acoustic ecologist, who has collected sounds all over the world.

Can you think of the soundscape that you’d most like to be able to conjure up?


bamboo water pipe


*I remember once being very surprised to hear my niece Katie complain about the terrible morning glories she was having to pull out. To me, morning glory flowers are pretty. In her mind, the vines spreading through the lawn were nothing short of pernicious.

†During the time that El Guapo was looking for this year’s Valencian apartment we got an email from the landlord of the apartment from year three, but for other reasons it didn’t seem like the right move. I had forgotten until now the noisescape of the place. We would have been unlikely to have to suffer through the construction noise of the building’s facelift, but Las Fallas comes around every year, and it only gets louder.


[Images:, flickr,, Thomas Verleene at Unsplash]


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