Working Sounds

by Steve

woman at desk with typewriter

I’m not sure how I feel about noise in a working environment. This morning, for instance, I have been disrupted and distracted by a colleague playing Michael Bublé’s Christmas hits at high volume, another colleague’s mobile phone squawking out a rather tinny rendition of something by Led Zeppelin, the constant chug of the photocopier, the initial sniffs of someone’s winter cold, plus your usual conversational hubbub/general non-specific office noise. I’m grateful that there haven’t been any especially loud phone calls, nor the bizarre, inexplicable exclamations to nobody in particular that sometimes emanate from certain staff.

Yet, this might all be excuses on my part for not being as productive as I’d like, or at least, as productive as perhaps I should be. Now, as I type this, the office has quietened down somewhat, and that quiet can be almost oppressive. A little background noise can be comforting, or at least blocks out those voices asking Why do we have to bother working today anyway?

I’m sure some gentle background music can help productive working, at least as a form of more tuneful white noise to block out the real world just enough to allow you to enter some sort of thinking space.

In terms of office noise, we live in an age of earphones, and quality broadband to stream all sorts of good stuff into those earphones, which can then block out all but the most annoying sounds. This certainly helps when undertaking more menial tasks, but I’m not sure it is that helpful when I have to properly engage the ol’ grey matter. Not that it stops me. We live in a multi-tasking age, and if that means doing two things badly (in this case listening and working), then so be it.

Anyway, this is really just an excuse to post something from a past age.  The Atlantic has flagged up this great piece of music posted on the fine Ubuweb site. It is a symphony of mechanical noise, made in the 1960s from the standard office equipment of the time. I didn’t appreciate how noisy offices must have been in a world of typewriters, calculator machines and the like. Bublé, mobile ringtones and modern photocopiers have got nothing on this.


Disclaimer: I do actually have a soft spot for the smooth musical stylings of Mr Bublé, and I love Christmas music more than is strictly socially acceptable, I’m just not entirely convinced a working office at 9am on a wet November morning is the right time or place for it.

Main image from the Reanimation Library