Film Club: ‘Sanctuaries of Silence’

What roles do sound and silence play in our lives?

Comments: 27

  1. This film is very different than anything I've ever seen. That being said, I surprisingly enjoyed it. At first I was very confused because I didn't know the whole film would be silent. It definitely made me pay more attention to the images on the screen, instead of listening to background noises. There were no particular moments that stood out to me or surprised me, but I enjoyed the beautiful scenes of rain-forest, cities, and bodies of water. The emotion that I took away from this film was concentration, because I focused on the images and tried to paint a story in my head. Overall I really liked this film.

  2. @sam onella I like how you described how the film encouraged you to consider your attention and concentration. If you hover above the film, you can see that there is volume to the film, which incorporates Gordon Hempton's perspective, the sound ecologist featured in the film.

  3. This film made me want to give more consideration to sound. I was very delighted by this film, mostly by the feeling of being ubiquitous by the sound.

  4. I am lucky enough to be teaching science at an art school in the north woods of Michigan, and I was able to have my students watch the VR version of this film. Students wrote individual responses, and then we had discussion about the film. “Silence as the poetics of space” is one of the quotes that jumped out for them. We had vigorous discussion about whether non-human acoustical phenomena could be called ‘silence.’ Students were both defensive about the noisy world they inhabit AND slightly mournful about the rarity of silence in that world. Students were cognizant that constant sound can be a source of stress but also a source of comfort and familiarity. Many students said that watching the video (end of February / beginning of March, with temperatures not much above 20F) made them want to run outside to be in our campus forest. Without being prompted, my students quickly veered into the larger-than-life dimensions of Hempton’s quest to document silences. Listening is hard – hard to listen to each other, and even harder to listen to the natural world when we don’t always know what we are hearing. We discussed the challenge of listening without judgment, and whether it’s even humanly possible. Students noted how hard it is even to listen to our own inner thoughts, and that effort is required to cultivate the space for creativity to bubble up from our own inner depth. This, at a school that trains students in the arts!

  5. My favorite part of Sanctuaries was the way he talked about silence and how he studies noise pollution and as a person in today's world you could tell he found silence very sacred. He said something that really stuck to me that I like, "silence is on the verge of extinction." I also feel like to study noise pollution you have to be very dedicated in studying something that’s nothing but something that is everything.

  6. @ArianaD I agree. Silence is both everything and nothing at all; it is not only the absence of sound, but also the presence of untouched serenity. Noise pollution os a generally overlooked form of pollution and Hempton draws awareness to its importance. In today's society, "silence" is achieved through noise cancelling headphones and earplugs, but "Sanctuaries of Silence" highlights the incompleteness of this silence.

  7. @ArianaD I agree. Silence is both everything and nothing at all; it is not only the absence of sound, but also the presence of untouched serenity. Noise pollution os a generally overlooked form of pollution and Hempton draws awareness to its importance.

  8. @ArianaD I agree. Silence is both everything and nothing at all; it is not only the absence of sound, but also the presence of untouched serenity. Noise pollution os a generally overlooked form of pollution and Hempton draws awareness to its importance. In today's society, "silence" is achieved through noise cancelling headphones and earplugs, but "Sanctuaries of Silence" highlights the incompleteness of this silence. Hampton approaches the subject of silence beautifully throughout the film, and makes a compelling argument for its sanctity. By and large, this film has not only illuminated my understanding of silence and noise pollution as a whole, but has also shed light on deeper issues and led to a broader conversation on environmentalism.

  9. “Sanctuaries of Silence” was an informational presentation of how this man feels about the value of silence. This film made me feel more relaxed, and gave me the urge to go outside and listen to the silence. A line that touched me was “silence is the presence of everything.” Many people, including myself at times, find silence to be boring and empty. We put on our headphones and shut the world out, always expecting to be entertained and engaged. The narrator also mentioned the loss of areas with only silence or natural sound, which I thought was a good point to mention, as it is never difficult to hear a plane, or a car, or construction.

  10. “Sanctuaries of Silence” talked about how a sound could transform someone’s life. The man in the video took a microphone with him on his journey to really listen in and focus on the natural sounds around him. He laid down on the ground of a forest and watched the storm develop, hearing the thunder and feeling the rain as it drenched him. He noted that it was the first time he experience true listening. Every place has a sound that indicates something like the first birdsongs of spring. A quote said in the video was that “silence is the poetics of space.” I like this quote because there is something relaxing about silence. It allows us to think without the distractions of noise around us. Our world is filled with noise and excitement that we forget to be quiet sometimes. The video also mentioned that there aren’t any real solutions for silence like noise-cancelling headphones. When you are listening to something, you actually have to be quiet and mindful of what you’re focusing on and the shut everything else out for a moment.

  11. This video made consistently beautiful and poetic observations, the lines that I loved most being statements about the functions of silence itself, which, in turn, forced me to rethink how I interpreted the noises around me (especially the difference between those when I’m, say, sitting in a cafeteria vs. those when I’m sitting by the lake). These were lines such as “Silence is the presence of time undisturbed” and “Silence is on the verge of extinction.” I was especially intrigued by this video due to its perspective -- it was not a first person experience like I had expected, but instead a viewing of Hempton viewing silence. I was sometimes walking in front of him, and sometimes looking down on him, giving me a perspective that was (literally) embedded in the environment.

  12. The sanctuary of silence video was so inspiring. I am a person who is very uncomfortable with silence so this video encouraged me to explore the beauty of silence. Some quotes that I loved from the video includes “silence is on the verge of extinction.” As a teenager I completely agree with this comment. In our day in age we fill silence with anything possible, we hear flights, music, phones, cars, trains everywhere we go there is noise. “Silence is not the absence of something it is the presence of time undisturbed,” this quote is explains that silence is something to be embraced whether than shied away from.

  13. I directly tied (the experience of this video) to my hometown, Mexico City. Mexico City is one of the largest cities in the world and also one of the most densely populated ones. There are sounds all over the place, sounds that are familiar and sometimes foreign but just a lot of sounds. I will have to differ in a certain aspect with the video since I always envisioned this sounds as music to my identity. Those sounds directly transport me to my childhood or a certain place or event. On the other hand I agree completely that those sounds can be overwhelming and the human being needs to reconnect with nature, soil and quiet. It can be overwhelming sometimes. I think a really interesting phenomena that is occurring is that the new generations of humans can be identified as children of the city instead of nature. They are born surrounded by buildings instead of redwoods and streets instead of roots. I can say that sometimes I find the noise pollution of my city sometimes calming… it reminds me of home. I am also fascinated by the argument that no inch in this world is free of modern sound. It is true and scary. I still don't know how to feel about this matter.

  14. @PedroR I agree with you. Being from a totally crowded city like Lima, where there are overwhelming noises all the time and everywhere, can make it difficult to hear nature sounds and enjoy their beauty. I also agree that these noises remind me of my city, Lima, and gives me the feeling of home whenever I hear them. However it is really breathtaking to think that there is no space or place left in the world free from noise pollution.

  15. This video showcased beauty in a truthful and artistic form. It showcased human interaction with nature and reverence to a certain art form. If I learned anything from this video, it takes me back to summer camp at Interlochen where the days were humid and long, where we hid various snacks from our counselors, and where we got lost in the woods. The woods is a safe place for me, and this video brings up other issues such as light pollution. There is a certain balance to achieve as artists and as humans– a fine line that is often not defined but still known– that at a point in our lives, there comes a certain knowledge that art isn't just human life but our art is a platform to express life. As Jean-Michel Basquiat says, "Whenever I paint I never think about art, I often think about life."

  16. A quote that really stuck with me from the Sanctuaries of Silence was “Silence is on the verge of extinction...” I understand the concept of noise pollution though I always thought you needed humans around to do it, I never thought about aircrafts flying through these lands and all the noise they make. In my head before the video, natural areas were quiet and free from noise pollution. It really strikes me that this man has been doing this for 35 years, I mean that is a lot of years just being in the wild with a microphone searching for silence. I really took from this how the humans are influencing the nature more than we notice. Besides I also enjoyed the nature surroundings showed in the movie and the quiet moments the movie made us listen.

  17. I was very shocked by the way in which sound pollution worked. It isn’t something I’ve ever thought about, and it was both bizarre and thought-provoking to watch this. The sound pollution (Hempton) explores is rather frightening, and I think puts things in perspective. It shows the many ways humans can impact the earth, even through just sound waves rather than through something perhaps more direct like fossil fuels, etc. It reminded me of the light pollution issue as well. In New Zealand we have light pollution areas where you cannot have lights on at certain hours.

  18. @Lola I agree with what you said about humans affecting the earth even if it's not physically. Like the light pollution issue you mentioned it really puts into perspective of what people are missing out. If everyone was silent what exactly would happen?

  19. The Hoh Rainforest is one of the quietest places on earth. Growing up in a pretty noisy environment, I never paid attention to the sounds around us, especially the sounds that nature makes. This documentary gave me a whole new perspective on what “sound” really is. When Gordon Hempton said that you’re in a noisy environment, you don’t have to stop and “listen” because "sound is all around you. When you’re in a much quieter environment, such as the Hoh Rainforest, you actually to try your best to “listen” to be able to hear the sounds around you. When he refers to “silence,” he refers to the absence of the noise from modern life or sound that has nothing to do with the natural acoustic system.” When you listen you have to be quiet!

  20. @LeAnne I agree that this documentary gives one the new perspective on what sound really is. It's hard for us to actually stop and listen to the natural sounds around us without any distractions. We are constantly surrounded by noises and disturbances that we usually don't focus on one thing at a time. While the Hoh rainforest is quieter than like a city, I think there are so many more different sounds in that environment to listen to.

  21. The sounds of silence video was really inspiring. I never thought of listening in that aspect, it put me in a completely different mindset. I learned from John Cage that there never really is any silence and it was cool to hear the world from a different point of view I actually have been to those woods in Washington before. It was cool to be back there and to experience those memories again.

  22. @EliR I agree with you and John Cage that there is never really any silence. The quietest place on earth that we as people made is the anechoic chamber in Orfield Laboratories in Minnesota. In the room it's completely absent of noise. What we imagine as silence is completely different from if we listened to natural silence.

  23. Silence is very impacting because sometimes it can speak louder than the noise. I feel like silence has such a negative stigma that goes along with it like silence is neglect or shame when silence could be prideful or mature. Silence to me is peace, no background noise to confuse or deter my focus.

  24. @Angel I definitely agree with you that silence is consider to be this negative thing but really its not. I also consider silence to be peaceful as well. You made a lot of good point on how silence can actually be a major impact on this world and how it is lacking too.

  25. @Angel I really like your point of view and needless to say - I agree with you. Silence is underrated by many people, who I think are maybe scared of it. You never know what is hiding in the dark silent room... Silence from a person who is amd at you can be very hurtful... But I personally love silence. As you say, it is peace and there is no disturbance by loud background noises. But even sound isn't purely bad - imagine sitting in your garden listening to birds chirping and a stream slowly jumping across rocks in its way... That is what is really peaceful to me. Those little, rather quiet sounds that goes hand in hand with silence.

  26. When listening to the video it showed me in my opinion that silence in this world is not shown a lot in this world because we as humans can not stop making noise. It kind of reminds me of a book I’m reading now called Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by author Susan Cain. It just revealed that I don’t even realize the quiet things in life especially nature. How nature can be so calming and still. When the man was just laying there listening to how silent nature was in my head I was comparing how in the beginning of the video he shows how the city was so noisy and loud and then after he's in a rainforest with barely any sound at all. It just made me think about how I don’t even pay attention to the little things in this world that barely make a sound at all. After watching the video I’m now going to take the time to appreciate and realize the beauty of nature and other quiet things can make a difference in this world too. Silence can also be someone’s peaceful moment or make them also to be able to work a little better too. Silence is portrayed sometimes to be a bad thing but in reality it's not at all.

  27. Have you ever walked a labyrinth? I went to this girls writing retreat a couple years in a row on Bainbridge Island. The place we stayed had a labyrinth made of stones in a secluded corner far away from the rest of the camp. I liked to go there in the mornings, early, while the dew was still on the ground and the girls were all moving slow. I'd walk it slowly, barefoot, sometimes I'd close my eyes. It was meditative. That's the point of course. To sink inside yourself. But I found that it didn't feel like sinking inside myself, it felt like expanding, like moving outward. The grass was soft and damp, the rocks cold, the pine needles occasionally pokey. The air was sweet smelling and chilled. The wind rustled the leaves and the birds chirped. That was silence for me. It was exactly what he said, not "the absence of something but the presence of everything". I felt more grounded and more present than I ever had. I felt at peace. There is something to be said for that, that simple contentedness. I can appreciate it, and sometimes I long for it. But there is something addictive about not being content. About the emotions boiling over, and making something new. And I don't think that comes from silence. That comes from noise, the noise you yourself make. Listening is important, it is so important. When you listen, you have to be quiet. And that is really good for all of us. It can teach us an important lesson. But sometimes, I think its just as important to make some noise.