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Editorial Musings with Basil Ramsey

Noise ... on facing the unavoidable


As we pass through life people met in daily circumstances often speak of their lives in such a way as to reveal a music-less state, despite the endless involuntary absorption of the commercial variety. After all these years, and a passion for music that has been paramount since the age of 11, I still feel a sense of shock at such a discovery, but my reaction is not condemnatory. Rather it is of amazement that our music-obsessed environment could have reached the point where saturation levels have even been exceeded for the millions of basically non-musical people bombarded daily on the small screen with commercials and music mush.

But in that thought might well be found a grain of absolute truth that the torrential use of music for passive listening does not fulfil what should be required of it. The twentieth century saw the jagged split that provided commerce with a valuable marketing tool; and music as an art continuing to grow for those who specifically need music for its own sake. As a basic example, my pre-teenage grandchildren take less notice of real music (or organised sound for listening) now than before the onslaught of TV commercials began its insiduous penetration, unavoidable to those who submit to the hazard as regular watchers of programmes.

What effect does all this have on musically orientated people? I think at a conscious level we mostly deplore our noisy and fault-ridden society, although there is also some level of capitulation to helplessness at the ingrained routine of natural and organised sounds that overwhelm us from the environment in which we live, and from the plethora of sound that reaches us as 'home entertainment'.

My house, situated by a busy main road, has recently become quieter after installation of new windows. Six weeks later I'm still in a state of excitement that this simple job has reduced noise. That is the strongest effect, and I did not previously realise the level of noise clutter I had grown to endure. In some ways this parallels the oppressive noise and gratification level forced upon music by commercial demand.

Individually we can take steps to generally control what sounds reach our ears in the privacy of our home. Given the sophistication of reproduction equipment we can enjoy superlative sound quality, and with a modicum of self-regulation can ensure that we hear only that which we choose.

It is a sadness in today's society that the majority are inexorably drawn to the noisy glitter of sound machines - TV, Video, Radio, Record players, Cassette players, Computer-generated sounds, and all the rest. Every aspect is bound by the relentless pressures of big business in its sole purpose of extracting money for things people are persuaded have an essential purpose, and often are products generating yet more noise.

As music lovers might we not more frequently draw attention to this noise canker in our society? People are generally induced into a noise hypnosis that is harmful to both mind and body, and therefore overlook the powerfully beneficial qualities of Music for almost any aspect of our existence.


Copyright © 28 September 2000 Basil Ramsey, Eastwood, Essex, UK


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