Sunday, December 21, 2008

Thoughts on music and silence

Ann Althouse:
Meanwhile, just yesterday, I was going on and on about how there's way too much music. It's playing everywhere, people are listening on iPods everywhere, and that I hardly ever want to listen to music. There is a lot of music that I acknowledge is good and that I even know I like, but that doesn't mean I want to listen to it. I specifically enjoy the absence of music, and I seek it out. If silence were a track I could have on my iPod, it would be on my most-played list.
It is perhaps underappreciated the extent to which recorded music now permeates our lives. The convenience store where I fill up my car now pipes music outdoors, at the pumps. Many popular TV shows now seems to have a rock soundtrack like an '80s teen movie. (I notice this because my kids watch TV more than I do.)

About 15 years ago, I encountered a young journalist who actually wrote while listening to music on headphones. That struck me as impossible. I have written in many noisy and chaotic environments, but who could enjoy listening to music during the writing process?

That's me, though. When I listen to music, I really want to listen. I don't like "background" music. And I don't enjoy listening to just any music, either. If I'm driving in my car and a crappy song comes on (e.g., anything by Supertramp, or "Suzy Q," the worst thing ever recorded by CCR), I change the channel or turn the radio off. If music doesn't actually add pleasure to the driving experience, I'd rather listen to a talk show or just have the silence for thinking.

Reason magazine hosts monthly happy hours in DC, but they have a bad habit of choosing bars that play that crappy Euro/techno-disco. You know the stuff I'm talking about? It's like dance music for people who don't dance. It's not like some kind of kick-out-the-jams funk that makes you want to jump out on the floor and bust a move, just a bunch of thump-and-bump repetition. Maybe there is some drug you have to take to enjoy that kind of crap. Silence is eminently preferable.

1 comment:

  1. One of the things I liked most when I was attending graduate school in Arizona was hiking into the desert, where the silence is sometimes almost palpable. It really is golden.