Music: The People vs. Blaring Din
Free Press Music Columnist
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I rise to defend a client some of you may have previously encountered.
Perhaps it was when he pulled up in the turn lane next to you at a stoplight. Maybe it was an occasion when he zipped by as you walked on the sidewalk. It is the rare person who hasn’t met the defendant at least once.
We all know him — the fellow who drives around with his windows rolled down and his music blaring.
I ask you to look past his sloping brow, his tiny, darting eyes and his bleeding eardrums. Think of the pain which must pierce my client’s heart every time you’ve muttered, “Inconsiderate dirtbag,” or “infuriating idiot” as the sound of Snoop Dogg or Lynyrd Skynyrd dopplers by and dwindles into the city’s ambiance. I want you to take a close look at this man. This is not the face of a selfish boor. This is the face of a hero, a traditionalist, keeping an important musical ritual alive.
You see, as musician David Byrne and others have pointed out, music has undergone a fundamental shift in recent years as its underlying technologies have morphed. There was a time when listening to music positively required you to share your sounds with anyone in close proximity. To be sure, we’ve had stereo headphones for a little more than a half century, since John C. Koss invented the Koss SP-3 and, in so doing, midwifed the birth of the audiophile.
But the advent of the MP3 player, particularly, and the earbuds (or, for the more trend-conscious amongst us, the Beats cans), through which most of us have our tunes relayed past our pinnae and into our ear canals, have transformed the practice of popular music from a social activity to a private one. We no longer declare our identity by flying the Van Halen banner or the Elvis Costello pennant.
Music has joined the domain of activities which many — perhaps the majority— of us practice on the down low, like onanism, talking to ourselves and staring at our pimples in the mirror.
And so, you see, this man sitting before you, with his six eight-inch DC subs and his Cactus 9k blasting at a resonant frequency sufficient to shatter his windshield, is a veritable Don Quixote, tilting at the windmills of modernity, refusing to go gently into that good night of music shame, and loudly declaring: I LISTEN TO KANYE. THEREFORE, I AM. He will not bow to our modern culture’s insistence that his music be regulated, restrained and restricted. He will be heard! He is exactly like Gandhi — if Gandhi had played Skrillex at cochlea-shattering volume.
So the next time my client whizzes by your house, knocking knick-knacks to the floor and driving your dogs into paroxysms of startled barking with the bass notes of “Fancy” blasting like automatic muzzle flash from his SUV, remember what this man has done for you … how he fought for your right to party loudly down public streets … how he kept alive a precious praxis of pop music. You must return a verdict of “Not Guilty” because, thanks to the opinion established in 1980 by the AC/DC Circuit Court, we know for sure: “Rock n’ Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution.”
The defense rests.
Craven Lovelace is the producer of the Notes Blog & Podcast at http://cravenlovelace.com/notesblog. He also writes about popular culture at the Cravenomena blog: http://cravenlovelace.com/cravenblog. You may find him on Facebook as well.
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