How can one get away from the dangers of even the gentle presence of programmed music, in public buildings? There are two aspects that I want to stress. One is that the elimination of silence is done without anybody's consent. The second is that one really has to stop, think...
How can one get away from the dangers of even the gentle presence of programmed music, in public buildings? There are two aspects that I want to stress. One is that the elimination of silence is done without anybody's consent. The second is that one really has to stop, think and analyze to see how manipulative these interventions are. In any case, who on earth has given anybody the right to manipulate the sound environment? (Ursula Franklin, "Silence and the Notion of the Commons")
A more contemporary example of a situation where silence has been manipulatively eliminated is on the Internet. There are many sites that have audible music or advertisements programmed into their code that begins instantly to play as soon as the site is opened. Some play what may be considered classically pleasing, such as Cartier.com, while others play what may be considered classically annoying or jarring (I have no example of this since, as a result of such classically annoying and jarring sounds on Internet sites, I always keep my volume on mute). Another example is the elimination of silence by the intrusion of power yard equipment into what Franklin calls the public common of silence.
Franklin argues that "commons" have traditionally existed and have been protected by law--until law changed that protection to benefit a privileged few. The example she uses of this is the classic old English common green that appeared English villages--and in most American and Canadian colonial villages and towns as well; the Boston Common is still identified as such. One early change made by law to the village common green is that commons came to be fenced off thus excluding certain people and certain livestock from grazing.
She further explains that the nature of commons have expanded as times have progressed and identifies legally regulated public parking for our automobiles as a contemporary form of a common space. In the same vein, Franklin identifies sound as one of the commons available to all and insists that violation of this sound common is both manipulative and a violation of established rights. The comparison thus exists between the early manipulation of the public grazing commons--available to all--for the benefit of privileged individuals to the contemporary manipulation of the public sound common for the benefit of present day privileged individuals, e.g., shop owners and office building owners. Summarily, Franklin does insist that silence is a right--a public commons right--and that the intrusion without permission into that common of silence--available to all--is manipulative.