IDEAS: When you were writing this book, what were the noises you heard?
GOLDSMITH: I don’t mind a bit of noise around me too much. Thanks to using a laptop, I wrote it all over the place. In fact, one of the stories in the book which I always quite liked was that [Thomas] Carlyle, a writer in the 19th century, he was very irritated by noise and lived in the city. So he decided he would build a soundproof study on top of his house. What he found was, although it did block out noise, the little noises within the house seemed particularly loud to him, so in some ways it was as bad as before.
IDEAS: Did a particular noise inspire you?
GOLDSMITH: One thing I was very interested by, in writing the book, is the  Mozart string quartet, the “Dissonance” Quartet. It doesn’t sound dissonant. The interesting thing in listening to that and reading about the history of noise or discordance in music is, when you have something like that, [which is] more discordant than music people would have been listening to at the time, in Mozart’s time...one can’t recapture that feeling that it’s weird. It just sounds a little bit unusual. The Rite of Spring [by Stravinsky], famously, on its premiere in Paris, there was a riot... the music was so alien and monstrous. Today, it’s not disturbingly dissonant.
IDEAS: Has our tolerance for noise changed?
GOLDSMITH: It’s quite difficult to look back over how things have changed....However, in London there have been a number of surveys since the 1940s. While there have been various changes in the levels of noise, people have grown more sensitive to it....The noise level that might annoy people now might have seemed innocuous a few decades ago.
The first antinoise campaigns were started in about the 1860s, which was of course when the industrial revolution had really raised the noise level. But there weren’t any complaints against the [sounds] of the industrial revolution. They were against street musicians who’d been around for centuries....Because noise is kind of a signifier of power, whoever is in control is allowed to make noise.