January 18, 2020

Article at respectnews.ca

Are you filling your ears with sugar, fat, and salt?

Is it possible that there’s just too much music in the world? I know it sounds preposterous. But I’m beginning to think that music is losing its magic.

We know there is junk food, which is easy and cheap, and satisfies our cravings for sugar, fat and salt. But it lacks nutrition, it’s unoriginal and impersonal, usually prepared by people who just want to finish their shift and go home.

There is also junk music. We hear it in elevators and stores, but we also insist on playing it in our homes and cars as background noise. We don’t enjoy it because we’re not even listening to it. It’s just part of the din that rescues us from our own thoughts, or from having to talk to each other.

I especially resent the music that’s played slightly too loudly at doctors’ offices to cover conversation as a means to protect privacy. Isn’t there a better way? As I used to tell my kids, “Keep it down! Some of us have Category 3 hyperacusis!”

(Hyperacusis is a hearing disorder that makes sounds seem louder than they really are. If you’re visiting a clinic to get treatment for hyperacusis, the loud music is especially insulting.)

For a decade now, security consultants have been advising convenience stores to play classical music on their outside speakers. The music drives away the young people who might otherwise hang around. Can you imagine? Some of the most intricate, imaginative, and beautiful music is being used as hoodlum repellent.

Before recorded music was readily available, the only time a person could hear music was when somebody actually played it or sang it. For most people, that wasn’t an everyday thing, except maybe for humming or whistling to themselves. Can you imagine the sheer pleasure of hearing music in church, at a dance, or, if you were very lucky, at a concert?

Today music is there all the time, whether you want it or not. And if there’s nothing playing, just flick a switch: over-produced over-hyped junk music (sugar, fat, and salt for your ears!) is there to fill the silence.

All this curmudgeonly grumbling is because I had two very enjoyable musical experiences on Sunday: I attended the jamboree at Elizabeth Settlement, and then hurried to the Cold Lake Music Festival’s Teacher Recital.

Both featured performers who took the time and made the effort to create beautiful music specifically for their audiences to enjoy. And it was impossible not to enjoy it—the old-time country sounds at the jamboree and the (mostly) light-classical performances at the recital were sincere personal gifts. They weren’t there to drown anything out or to drive anyone away, and they were too good to be called junk music or background noise.

If I could recommend two things you can do to bring back the magic of music, they would be to turn off your radio from time to time, and to attend live music events whenever you can. Take some of the junk out of your musical diet, and rediscover the beauty of a home-cooked meal.