I) Warming up the Ear
1) Visit the Ohropax Web site at www.ohropax.de. Find out more by clicking on "Geschichte." The Web site is available in German and in English.
2) Play a round of "Sound MemOHRy" (www.ohropax.de, click on "Unterhaltung"). What sounds can you easily identify, which ones are harder to identify? If doing this on your own, keep a log about this experience. (This exercise also works as an in-class game.)
3) "Noise" is derived from the Greek nausea. Form associations!
4) Find out what the hearing ranges of humans and animals are.
5) Using different sources, gather definitions of noise and then compare them as a class. What is classified as "noise" and based on what parameters? Can this definition of "noise" ever be objective?
6) Discuss the physical structure of sound waves by looking at oscillograms. What does silence look like? How about noise? Can we "see" the difference between noise and sounds? What do "amplitude" and "frequency" signify?
7) Think about your iPod use. What do you listen to and when? Do you find yourself in a private sound "bubble" unreachable by others while you listen to your iPod? How does listening to a car radio differ from listening to music with headphones? What is one?s auditory spatial awareness in these cases?
8) Are German cities louder than, say, American ones? Why? Give examples.
9) Find out what people (especially in other cultures) use when trying to block out unwanted sounds. What is the range of available material? Start with your fingers and work up to the current state-of-the-art technology.
II) Working with the Text
1) What are Bailey's and Lessing's associations with silence?
2) What was Lessing's Antilärmverein and why did it fail? Are there corresponding institutions or organizations today that you know of?
3) In this chapter, how are city sounds described positively and negatively? Cite exact phrases used throughout the chapter.
4) How was Negwer's earplug marketed, and why was he successful, whereas Lessing's society could not establish itself in the long term?
III) Further Food for Thought
1) Interview two people who grew up in different places, and ask them to talk about the differences between noise and sound. How do they define each one? What are some examples? Are the sounds of a city positive or negative to them? What about the sounds of the country? What conclusions can you draw from these results?
2) Watch Caroline Link's film Jenseits der Stille (Beyond Silence, 1996) and elaborate on the concepts of sound, silence, and auditory spatial awareness in the case of Lara and her deaf parents.
3) How do deaf people "hear"? Legally deaf drummer Evelyn Glennie explains how to listen to music with the entire body: http://www.ted.com/talks/evelyn_glennie_shows_how_to_listen.html. Would Negwer's earplugs effect her ability to drum?
4) Philip Gröning?s 2006 film Die große Stille (Into Great Silence) shows the daily life of Carthusian monks, considered the Catholic Church?s strictest order, adhering to their vow to speak as little as possible. Examine the spaces depicted in the film. What sounds are there at the monastery? How do the speaking spaces differ from the spaces of silence? How does the cinematography add to the viewer's experience of silence?
5) Collect information on the national "Day of Silence." (See for example www.dayofsilence.org.) Is silence well suited to being an engaging political tool? How does this compare to the U.S. armed forces' policy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"?