For a while I’ve been thinking about the importance and relevance of sounds in our daily lives, the sounds we notice, and the bulk of sounds we simply pay no active attention to. Like many geeks and techies out there I can sleep with computers whirring and beeping in the background, amongst my techie friends I am known for my very weird ability of sleeping in a loud datacentre environment. For most people this isn’t normal, they need quiet to have a good restful night sleep – perhaps all of these sounds are affecting me in my sleep somehow, that was the thinking, so I started to research.
I came across this TED lecture by Julian Treasure on the 4 ways sound affects us, its worth a watch as a starting point.
My office (like many others) has lots of servers and computers running in it, and lots of background noise. According to Julian this kills productivity by 60+%… very worrying! So I started to look for ambient sounds that can play in the background while I work, this was harder than I thought it would be. Finding high quality both in terms of bit rate (audiophile that I am) and in terms of content was quite difficult.
This is a very nice MP3 and long enough to have in a constant loop without becoming mechanical and repetitive.
Download Ocean Sound (8.16Mb – 5:56 length).
I also came across this podcast on iTunes (iTunes link), which is a regularly updated podcast of bird songs. One of the issues I found with podcasts and iTunes, is that although there are many ambient sounds and relaxing sounds podcasts listed in the directory, many are no longer updated, and many have broken links within them.
MakeUseOf.com (a blog I enjoy reading regularly) have also detailed some nice free iPhone/iPod touch soundscape applications. Although they’ve taken a slightly different slant on it, by looking at applications that can help you fall asleep, but still worth a read, and a good resource for direct links to the apps. My personal favorite, after having tried all the listed free apps, for its sheer simplicity is Naturespace (iTunes link).
Its been two weeks now, and while working, rather than having the news or music on in the background, I am mainly using the ocean mp3 listed above. Its working well for me, and as long as it does, I’ll continue to do it 🙂