One Square Inch of Silence

One Man's Search for Natural Silence in a Noisy World

One Square Inch of Silence

In the visionary tradition of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, One Square Inch of Silence alerts us to beauty that we take for granted and sounds an urgent environmental alarm. Natural silence is our nation’s fastest-disappearing resource, warns Emmy-winning acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton, who has made it his mission to record and preserve it in all its variety—before these soul-soothing terrestrial soundscapes vanish completely in the ever-rising din of man-made noise. Recalling the great works on nature written by John Muir, John McPhee, and Peter Matthiessen, this beautifully written narrative, co-authored with John Grossmann, is also a quintessentially American story—a road trip across the continent from west to east in a 1964 VW bus. But no one has crossed America like this. Armed with his recording equipment and a decibel-measuring sound-level meter, Hempton bends an inquisitive and loving ear to the varied natural voices of the American landscape—bugling elk, trilling thrushes, and drumming, endangered prairie chickens. He is an equally patient and perceptive listener when talking with people he meets on his journey about the importance of quiet in their lives. By the time he reaches his destination, Washington, D.C., where he meets with federal officials to press his case for natural silence preservation, Hempton has produced a historic and unforgettable sonic record of America. With the incisiveness of Jack Kerouac’s observations on the road and the stirring wisdom of Robert Pirsig repairing an aging vehicle and his life, One Square Inch of Silence provides a moving call to action. More than simply a book, it is an actual place, too, located in one of America’s last naturally quiet places, in Olympic National Park in Washington State.
  • Atria Books | 
  • 272 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781416559825 | 
  • March 2009

Video

Meet Gordon Hempton

Silence is an endangered species and Gordon Hempton, an Emmy Award-winning acoustic ecologist, is on a coast-to-coast mission to preserve and protect the natural environment from manmade noise.

About the Authors

Gordon Hempton
Donna Harrington

Gordon Hempton

Gordon Hempton is an acoustic ecologist and Emmy Award-winning sound recordist.  For nearly 25 years he has provided professional audio services to musicians, galleries, museums, and media producers, including Microsoft, Smithsonian, National Geographic, Discovery, National Public Radio, and numerous other businesses and organizations. He has received recognition from the Charles A. Lindbergh Fund, National Endowment for the Arts, and the Rolex Awards for Enterprise. He studied botany and plant pathology at the University of Wisconsin. His sound portraits, which record quickly vanishing natural soundscapes, have been featured in People Magazine, a national PBS television documentary, "Vanishing Dawn Chorus," which earned him an Emmy Award for “Outstanding Individual Achievement.” Hempton has now circled the globe three times in pursuit of environmental sound portraits. His new audio series--Environmental Sound Portraits--is the first new work to appear in more than a decade. He lives in Port Angeles, WA.

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John Grossmann
Eric Kampmann

John Grossmann

John Grossmann has been a freelance writer of magazine articles and books for nearly all of his working career.  He has written on as wide a range of topics as implied by the following list of magazines that have published his work:  Air & Space/Smithsonian, Audubon, Cigar Aficionado, Esquire, Geo, Gourmet, Health, Inc.,  National Geographic Traveler, The New York Times Magazine, Outside, Parade, Saveur, Smithsonian, Sports Illustrated, and USA Weekend.  He ghostwrote the 2006 book Smart Moves for Liberal Arts Grads (Ten Speed Press); and before that wrote the 100-year history of one of the nation’s oldest and most successful summer camps, YMCA Camp Belknap, which he attended as a camper and leader and where his two sons have also been campers and leaders.

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