It's all about listening to what's around us

The daily commute to and from work is one of the most common sources of stress and anger for people the world over, whether that means being squished into someone’s armpit in a packed tube carriage or sitting in traffic on the motorway.

Take any form of public transport during rush hour and all you have to do is have a quick glance at the commuters around you to notice just how many of us are trying to make our journeys more bearable by listening to music, podcasts and audiobooks.

According to one man, however, we’re doing it all wrong.

Ash Sargant has hypersensitive hearing which means he’s much more aware of the sounds around us than most people. “I can hear the noises that would just not make it on to other peoples’ register,” he told the Telegraph.

According to Sargant, one of the reasons we find our commutes so stressful is that we’ve learnt to associate those sounds - tannoy announcements, the hiss of trains, mechanical clanks - with stress.

He believes that by repurposing those sounds, we can turn our journeys into relaxing experiences. 

Having previously worked as a DJ, Sargant was recently approached by Optrex to create an album of ambient music to help people relax after, say, a horrendous commute. 

What makes Sargant’s series of ten-minute tracks different to most relaxation music is that he has avoided the obvious - there are no crashing waves, panpipes or trickling streams.

Instead, he’s recorded trains, traffic and escalators, attempting to find beauty in the mundane sounds that we often ignore or find annoying, in the hope that listeners will learn to pick them out on their daily routines. 

Although the sound of a plane taking off may not be obviously relaxing, Sargant has placed all his recordings in more pleasant contexts. 

Sargant points out that there’s a big difference between passively hearing things and actively listening, and by bringing background noises to the foreground, he’s encouraging us to do more of the latter. 

“I hoped listeners would in future be able to form more positive associations with them in their day-to-day lives,” he said.

But does it work? You’ll have to listen for yourself but some people have found that by listening to Sargant’s recordings they’ve successfully recontextualised the sounds around them and managed to stay relaxed on their once stressful journeys to and from work. 

No one can get rid of delays, overcrowding and loud tourists, but if Sargant’s tracks can make a commute more bearable, it’s surely worth a try.

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