The Sound Of Noise

Often, I see discussions on twitter about the best music to write to. Many people make playlists and listen to them over and over to “set the mood” of the book. It seems quite common. But to me, it feels totally alien.

I write best without music and without people around me. Total silence doesn’t work, unless it IS total, but some nice background rumble usually does the trick, to keep me wrapped up in that nice bubble. But not music. If I hear music, I focus entirely on it and my brain locks up. Some music does work, but only if it’s very abstract – ambient or minimal electronica is usually good, but even not that for very long. Rain sounds are perfect.


Which is why I can’t understand the need for music in bars and restaurants and cafés. It confuses me. If you go somewhere to talk to other humans, then what the hell do you need music for? In a loud environment, I can’t hold a conversation. Even though I might hear the other person, my brain can’t grasp what they’re saying, because of all the overload of input. I hear them, but they’re just face parts moving, making a noise.

It comes from being introvert, I’ve discovered in later life. I think and relax much better when I’m by myself. Too much exposure to other people drains me and leaves me an emotional wreck. My son had probably noticed that after a few days of holiday in a new place, especially a city, I communicate in grunts and single words, until I can get home to recharge in silence.

the-silenceI understand that many people get recharged by being in company. They get energy from others. But many people don’t, and I don’t think extroverts really grasp that. They think we’re just not trying. But the truth is, an introvert needs very little input to feel stimulated, and for us, most modern environments are utterly draining, like getting slammed repeatedly over the head with a tray.

When I studied here in Stockholm, ten years ago, I was astounded that, in the university library, people chatted, and laughed, and talked on their mobile phones, out loud, as if in a pub. In the fucking library. And that’s when I first started to feel really old.

It’s a dream of mine to open a café where silence is the theme. You sit there, you eat, you sip your coffee, and you shut up. No music, no youtube videos at the next table, no idiots yelling into mobile phones. Just the natural sounds of everyday where you can sit and have a think or maybe do some writing. A church, basically, just without all the churchy stuff, with no irritating pop drivel on the radio, no large TV on the wall blasting ads into your tired stressed-out brain.

But until then I’ll keep looking for cafés without sound systems, and bringing my earplugs.

/ paddy


  1. I don’t know that I’m particularly an introvert, although I may have introvert tendencies now and again, but I absolutely share your affinity for quieter places where one can read or have a conversation. I thought that’s what a pub was supposed to be. I guess there just aren’t enough actual “locals” around. Should you open that pub of yours, I’d be glad to play a role.
    I myself have always wanted to open a café/pub/coffee house type place that catered to my own amusements. Lots of books around, quiet places to write, one room in the back with a billiard table. There’d be a kitchen and baked goods where I would have regular staff, but I could dabble when I wanted to. Then of course a stage – where every once in a while we lock the doors and force people to listen, actually listen, to fine acoustic music. Of course we’ll warn them ahead of time. So they can pause from the writing. 🙂

    1. Cafes are usually perfect, unless some man is loudly shouting about something, and there is no music, or very low music.

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