Turn that music down!

When I was in high school, I had fantasies about being a rock star. I played the guitar a little bit. I managed to save up for an electric guitar and an amplifier, and we spent some time making a lot of noise and occasionally playing some popular songs, albeit rather poorly. We played a couple of dances, but there were a lot of repeated songs, as we didn’t really know enough to make a whole evening’s performance. My brother was a drummer with some talent and went on to play in several different bands over the years. He has made efforts, from time to time, to become a full-time professional drummer, but never has succeeded in making he income from playing in bands go far enough to cover rent and groceries. I’ve done quite a bit of hauling equipment around, helping my brother with his drums and others with their amplifiers and equipment.

through those years, we wanted to be loud and tried to use our equipment to produce as much sound as possible. We learned about feedback and turned things up as much as we could.

I’ve never owned high end stereo equipment, but there was a time, when I was a young pastor, when I bought several pieces of used equipment when youth in my youth group were upgrading to more expensive items and want to sell their speakers and amplifiers. At one point we had a pair of speakers that were large enough to almost be furniture.

Of course technology has changed and a lot of sound can come from some very small appliances these days. Even the big arrays of speakers at professional concerts aren’t as big as once was the case.

But there is technology for bone jarring bass all around.

Last night we attended the annual gala for a local nonprofit whose work we support. I enjoy the people who support that nonprofit and I really enjoy the awards section of the evening when they honor the outstanding achievement of some pretty incredible folks. The evening includes a big dinner. Last night they had chicken and prime rib along with all the trimmings and a great big cake on every table for dessert.

For what I think is the third year in a row, however, we were seated at a table that was in front of a bank of speakers. Throughout the evening, whenever there wasn’t a speaker on the stage or a video being projected, there was music blaring from the speakers. I’m not talking about background music. I’m talking about booming bass and music loud enough to make it difficult to speak with the other people at your table. By the end of the evening I was experiencing a mild headache and very glad to get out of the room. I had hardly spoken to the others at our table. It was just too much effort to shout over the music. Whenever there was a speaker, there was a sense of relief that the music had finally been turned off.

I suppose that there were some present who liked the music and who were not bothered by it. Surely the planners had invested a lot of time and energy in making the evening into a genuine celebration. They must have noticed the music. I assume that it was that loud on purpose.

The only conclusion that I can draw is that I’ve become one of those old codgers who used to yell at us when we were teenagers: “You kids turn down that music!”

I didn’t yell at the people running the sound system at the back of the room. I didn’t even ask them to turn down the music. I probably won’t say much of anything about it, though I might mention it to one of the planners the next time I see her at a meeting.

I have been reading about Americans living in political bubbles, talking only to those who agree with them. The theory is that there is less dialogue with those with whom we disagree. We surround ourselves with news and information that agrees with our point of view and we only discuss politics with those whose opinions are similar to our own. I don’t think that is really true of me. I have the luxury of being surrounded by a very diverse group of friends, some of whom have very different opinions and positions than my own. The church is a powerful collection of very different opinions and positions. Sometimes there are a few tense moments when disagreement is evident, but most of the time we interact with respect.

Last night would have been a good time for people to hear opinions that are different from their own. The mayor of our city was at a neighboring table. I spoke briefly with people whom I know to be Democrats and Republicans. There were members of the state legislature and candidates for office present at the gathering. But we didn’t talk to each other very much. Other than a few greetings, it was just too hard to talk. The music was too loud.

I’m pretty sure that my hearing is not as good as once was the case. I sometime struggle to understand when I am in a crowded location. The pa announcements on an airplane are not as clear as I remember them being in the past. When I am listening for announcements in a waiting room, I have to focus my attention. I turn the sound down on televisions in waiting areas whenever I can do so without bothering others. And in addition to my medical, dental and prescription cards, my insurance company has sent me a hearing aid insurance card as well. The years do take their toll. On the other hand, I have not yet needed hearing aids and I am able to function well as a pastor and counselor without the need for anything special.

Furthermore, I like certain loud sounds. I enjoy being in the choir loft when our organist is playing dramatic pieces. Those big pipes produce a lot of sound.

Every once in a while, however, I am tempted to ask those who control the sound to turn the music down. I probably won’t, however. They might not be able to hear or understand what I’m saying. The music is too loud.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!