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case #1: While I was waiting for a BodyPump class to begin some weeks ago, another middle-aged woman came up to me to ask if the volume of the music bothered me. I said yes. She said good, that gave her courage. She went up front to ask the instructor (one of two) to lower the volume. Which he did.

The other instructor did not hear this exchange, and not far into the class she turned the volume back up, and then up again. Finally this older woman put down her equipment and left the room. A little later, someone from the front desk came in and pulled aside the male instructor to tell him someone had filed a complaint about the volume. He turned to the class and asked us if we thought it was too loud.

I didn't speak up. I don't know why not. Others did, loudly. One of them said "It has to be that loud!" Others agreed that the class didn't work with the volume down. I knew I was outnumbered but thought I'd catch the instructors after class and let them know how I felt. As it turned out, they were already heavily into rehearsing some other routine by the time I got up there and I just left.

Case #2: I like the bagels and friendly people at Broadway Bagel in Pismo Beach. But, true to the name, the place broadcasts music from Broadway musicals all day long. Loudly. Usually some overwrought pieces from Les Miz or Cats or even Oklahoma. I can handle that only so long, so today I moved outside. . .

Case #3: . . where I was assaulted by top-forty tunes at high volume. I tried reading but kept getting distracted by this music. I thought of going to Starbucks, where I would face jazz or world music, which, I think, is at least preferable. But I'd have to buy another coffee and I didn't feel like it.

Case #4: When I asked someone in a supermarket about the music, they said they are happy to turn the volume down if requested.

Case #5: I went into a drugstore a few years ago and was being irritated by the singing I heard on the loudspeaker. I noticed, though, a customer in a nearby aisle humming and singing along with it.

Most of the workers I have asked, in many different types of businesses, have said they prefer the music to be on because "it makes the time go faster" or "it drowns out other noises", like refrigerators or fans or clanking of machinery. Some studies I have read say people buy more when there is music, that it relaxes them, makes them feel better.

I wonder, though. Now that there is NO ESCAPE is this still true? When you can't even fill up your gas tank without being attacked by Britney Spears? When the only respite is inside an insulated home and on the occasional hiking trail where others are considerate enough not to be hauling boomboxes?

I have theories about this music. I think the constant noise is a mask that creates a distraction that makes it difficult for us to think. It is a way to escape our heads. It is scary to be alone with ourselves.

So you ask: if it were a different kind of music would I feel differently? Yes and no. When I go into Barnes & Noble and hear classical music I usually do like it. But it isn't just the type. It is also the volume. Even when I sit in a soft chair there and read I am not distracted by it. It is not so low that it is an irritating hum in the background yet it is not so high we can't hear each other speak. Sometimes there is no music playing at all.

That's my suggestion. Let's hear it for no music sometimes. Just turn it off.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 14th, 2002 02:59 pm (UTC)
I have theories about this music. I think the constant noise is a mask that creates a distraction that makes it difficult for us to think. It is a way to escape our heads. It is scary to be alone with ourselves.

I agree. I think people are so afraid of silence and feel they need to fill up every moment with some kind of noise. To me, the worst are people who can't stop talking on cell phones. I love the ones in the market pushing their shopping carts with the phone cradled in their necks -- chiropractors are probably making a fortune on them.
May. 14th, 2002 09:44 pm (UTC)
(laughing) yes, I've seen and heard that. And when I finally got my own cell phone I quickly learned that it is not good for that shoulder action. (I don't use it much but like having it around for when I do need it. Particularly on long drives.)

I agree that many people are afraid of silence. At work I notice people bringing out little radios and tape players when they discover there is no piped-in music. I think that a lot of people don't actually hear the sounds. It is simply there in the background, adding some sort of soundtrack to their activities. Those of us who are musicians, I think, find it much harder to ignore.

May. 14th, 2002 04:05 pm (UTC)
case#1 - I'm one of those 'turn the damn volume down' folks in aerobics. Yes it needs to be at a certain level to.. not sure how to describe, to 'flow,' but the younger ones like it WAY too loud! (ohh God I'm now one of the 'older' ones - ack!)
case# 2 - show tunes weeeeeeeee!! ;op~~~~
case# 3 - turn the fucking music down!
case# 4 - turn the fucking music down!
case# 5 - I dunno which is worse, the muzak or the morons that sing along/hum to it. It drives me crazy in Wal-Mart when people do that - I just wanna smack 'em a good one - !

I thoroughly agree with your theory, Judith. It keeps the masses sleepwalking, just like the media does. And how many on the planet are truly awake or awakening, or even have the desire to do so? I'd say 10% giving the benefit of the doubt... be glad you're awake & aware!

Have you ever read Stuart Wilde? Simplistic, but he makes some good points re: society
May. 14th, 2002 09:47 pm (UTC)
10%? Pretty generous estimate.

In the case I mentioned, I didn't actually mind the person humming along. I noticed it in particular because I was feeling irritated at the music and here in front of me was someone who was enjoying it. I would not want to take away someone else's pleasure. But at the same time I feel like I deserve a little myself. Which translates to silence occasionally. I don't think it's so much to ask.
May. 15th, 2002 11:25 am (UTC)
No, I haven't read anything by Stuart Wilde. Simplistic, you say? Well, let's remember that you are "a little simple", according to that deep m & m quiz.
May. 15th, 2002 12:52 pm (UTC)
Re: Stuart
I attended wit school.. and only made it halfway through...
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )


Judith Lautner
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