Saturday, August 18, 2007

When Did Noise Become the Measure of Celebration?


I recently joined two friends for lite-fare and a drink at a local wine bar. To the rear of the wine bar was a group of twenty women, 20 to 30-somethings, celebrating something. The noise level of their "conversations" was intolerable. We were finally forced to leave because we were unable to hear each other speak. When did noise become the measure of celebration, or, for that matter, a good time?

The elimination of quiet in public places now seems complete. It is difficult to find any convivial quiet place. Though it seems sudden, I think this progress toward the loss of quiet places has been gradual and relentless. Quiet places for reflection, or the experience of a vivid sense of tranquility, or the possibility of finding or renewing one's self in quiet space has been extinguished by noise---noise that is being ratcheted up to numbing levels.

Even more insidious is the insertion of music into ever space. When music is everywhere, is music anywhere? From clothing stores, to churches, to grocery stores, elevators, telephone on-hold systems, booming car sound systems, the infernal ice cream trucks (this may be Baltimore specific), offices, the Jiffy Lube, the doctors office, waiting rooms, to name a few. This incessant muzak-ed mush is deadening.

The iPod has contributed to this in another way. Once the head phones are on, the wearer enters their own sound isolation, removed from all that is around them. A friend of mine in DC, who takes the bus to work, is one of a rare few who does not plug into an iPod on the bus. She said recently that she realized in the midst of the bus ride that she may have been the only one who was actually there.

My friends and I went to another place around the corner that had tables outside. It was quieter, but even at the little outside bistro area, music was being piped out. Isn't it getting a little scary? Does this immersion in noise/personal sound have something to do with closeness? Does this noise create spaces where people are protected from closer personal interaction or saved from being alone, in the scary quiet? Is the constant intrusion of sound a measure of the loneliness we feel?

4 comments:

Your said...
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your mama said...
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your mama said...

I don't have an ipod, and not just because I'm cheap. I sort of like eavesdropping, being able to hear people when they call my name, and birds.

jamm said...

..the birds, yes.