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Give me music and give me noise....

Friday, 10 October 2014

Joyriding: you are the passenger

Another animadversion on noise.

I was cruising through the industrial badlands of my old West Midlands hometown last night, the car stereo cranking out some as-loud-as-I-could-stand-it reggae, when ... I had the following thought.

Why is it that some people - people who like music or at least profess to - appear unable and unwilling to listen to music at loud volumes? It's something I've noticed with passengers in my car. It's always "Turn that down, will ya?", five seconds into the bloody journey. Er, right. Is it something about being in the confined space of a car with loud music? Is it MY music? Is it that they're desperate to have an in-depth conversation without the slightest distraction? What?

I dunno. I think I'd genuinely like to be a passenger in a car belting out some decent-ish music at loudish volume levels. Isn't this what car ownership is all about? Haven't these people ever listened to Jonathan Richman?  And ... thinking about it, I've noticed that one or two fairly regular occupants of my passenger seat DO groove (a little) to the in-car sounds and don't immediately start in with this frowsy "can we turn it down?" stuff. 

Hmm. I reckon it boils down to this: people who genuinely like music are happy (happier?) with it loud; people who don't really like music all that much (and maybe just masquerade as music types) don't. Kinda simple. 

According to Luigi Russolo, the Italian Futurist, so-called noise pollution is the "intolerable corruption of human space", and judging by the violent reaction to his intonarumori experiment, I guess he knew what he was talking about. The art of noise, eh? Despite my own occasional contact with intolerably loud live performances (one or two Neils Children gigs spring to mind), I continue to welcome ... er, acoustically-challenging music. 

Senti! Russolo preparing his in-car stereo, c1917
In the old saying, noise annoys, but actually people griping about the car stereo being too loud for them is my own pet annoyance. Think yourself lucky you're not in one of those window-shaking sound-systems-on-wheels I regularly hear (and feel) passing through my neighbourhood in east London. So next time you want a lift in my car, do the following. Put your seat-belt on, keep your mouth firmly closed, and ... feel the noise.


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