Academic Commons


Review of Hillel Schwartz. 2011. Making Noise: From Babel to the Big Bang and Beyond. Brooklyn: Zone Books

Mattern, Shannon

Hillel Schwartz’s Making Noise: From Babel to the Big Bang and Beyond is
not merely a text to be read; it’s also an object to be grappled with. One must
create space for it, adopt a proper reading posture to accommodate it, and
listen to it—both to the words on the pages and to the pages themselves.
At 9 ¼ in. x 6 ¼ in. x 2 3/8 in., Making Noise is not the kind of book one can
easily tuck into a bag for subway reading. In fact, in the two months I spent
working through the text, not once did I manage to find sufficient spare
space in my bag to lug it to school or to a coffee shop; consequently, I read
the book entirely in my apartment—in a familiar and relatively quiet acoustic
environment, which may have set Schwartz’s babble and bang into acoustic
relief. In addition, Making Noise is not the kind of book one can easily read
while lying on the couch; its 2.5 pounds tired my wrists far too quickly. As
a result, I read the entire book sitting or standing up, or while lying on my
stomach on the living room carpet. I never experienced Schwartz with my
head cocooned in a pillow, down and cloth providing acoustic insulation.
Consequently, as I read, I became more conscious of the symphony of white
noises—humming refrigerators and whirring hard drives—filling my seemingly
quiet Brooklyn apartment.



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Current Musicology

More About This Work

Academic Units
Columbia University
Published Here
September 29, 2014
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