April 9, 1993

Music and Noise

The kids today are quite right about the music that their parents listened to: most of it was trash. The parents are quite right about what their young listen to: most of it is trash too.

Gene Lees, 1967

I can't remember ever having not liked music. My tastes range from opera, operetta, chamber music and symphony, to folk, bluegrass, country and jazz. I also love to dance. When I was in high school it was the Lindy hop, fox trot and waltz. I got to be pretty good at dancing. When I lived in Nigeria, I learned to improvise on a dance floor and enjoyed it more than I ever had in high school. Despite my 68 years, I can still hold my own on a dance floor and I love it. So how come I don't go to every dance that Laytonville has?

The answer is "decibels" --no, not decibels, but "Bells". A Bell is 10 decibels. The music nowadays is so loud that it is painful. The reason that it's not painful to the, excuse the expression, musicians, is because their hearing has been partially destroyed by the noise. At a certain point, when you increase the volume, music ceases to be music and becomes noise --and I hate noise!!!

I have asked bands to turn down the volume a number of times. The response is predictable: either I am ignored, told in no uncertain terms that I have no right to tell a band how loud their music should be, or I am told that they will do it and then nothing happens. At dances, I, the customer, am always wrong.

I can understand a band turning the volume up in Madison Square Garden, or a sports arena; but our small hall?

All that is necessary is for the audience to hear the music clearly. Would it make most people unhappy if the sound didn't make their skulls resonate? I don't know the answer because I have never taken a poll. The only thing that I do know is that, at a Harwood Hall dance, a hellofalot of people spend much of their time outside --and many of these are non-smokers.

I have tried putting wadded up Kleenex in my ears, but it doesn't work. I have thought of using the ear protectors that I use when I operate my chain saw. The problem, besides it looking silly, is that I wouldn't be able to converse with my partner.

I have been told that I like my music loud; loud is half of what happens at a dance or concert. To me, loud is as loud as an acoustic instrument can get.

If Laytonville had a dance where they had instruments that were not attached to amplifiers, I would go. When they have a piano player or a guitar player at the Crossroads, I love it; but the minute that they set up the speakers and amplifiers, I leave. As the song goes, "I haven't got time for the pain".

The question is why is the music so loud? I remember my parents screaming at me to turn my music down, and I remember yelling at my kids, telling them to do the same thing. I finally compromised with them and told them that if they wanted to wreck their ears, they could do it with earphones and it wasn't necessary to plague me with the noise.

Is loud music a teen age phenomenon? Perhaps it is. If they want to keep us old fogeys off the dance floor, loud music is a sure way to do it.

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