1. Sound that is loud, unpleasant, unexpected, or undesired
2. A loud outcry or commotion
3. Physics – A disturbance, especially random and persistent, that obscures or reduces the clarity of a signal
4. Computer Science – Irrelevant or meaningless data
Word history: Those who find that too much noise makes them ill will not be surprised that the word ‘noise’ can possibly be traced back to the Latin word ‘nausea’, meaning ‘feeling of sickness’.”
She took a deep breath and tried to avoid as much noise as she could. But her problems were getting worse. Now, sitting in the middle of the Sixth Avenue subway train, she thought that she could hear every possible noise that was being produced: the humming of the air conditioner, the metal-on-metal screeching, the plastic clinking.
She could feel every tiny feature of the other passengers’ curt, crude, irritated behaviour. She could ‘hear’ every emotion that they felt: of impatience, fear, injustice, prejudice, of anxiousness, desires, hopes, dreams, and, rarely, joy. Their feelings engulfed her and she could not hear herself murmuring. She tried to isolate herself by turning to her iPod, listening to recordings of old orchestra music. That normally kept her calm. But it was not helping this time. Coughs, sniffs, murmurs; the doors sliding open and close; the shuffling of feet – the noises seeped into her. The passengers seemed to draw closer. She was wringing her hands restlessly.
So as the train stopped at the next station, she quickly got off. But the station was no better. The conversations hit the tiled walls and echoed. The emotions of the many people travelled to her in the form of sound waves. She could hear everything. Her anxiety heightened. She clasped her head with both her hands to drain it all out but the noises were deep inside her. She was in a maze, of confusion and suffering, and there was no way out.
Announcements alerted the passengers of the incoming train. There was more shuffling of feet, more phone calls made. It became unbearable. The incoming train was zooming in. She let go and felt herself falling into eternity. The cold air hung. A woman screamed. A baby cried. But the noises faded. All was quiet. She escaped the labyrinth. Finally. The sweet harmony of orchestra music started playing. She was always a fan of music, but never of noise.
*Inspired by the piano piece “Glassworks” by Philip Glass.