’Solid Sounds’

Wednesday June 26, 2013

Seth Brown

This past weekend was the Solid Sound festival in North Adams, and while I don’t know Wilco’s lead singer Roger, I do know that I was happy to have very loud music taking place at Mass MoCA. Mainly this is because the previous weekend, my neighbors were playing loud music, and all things considered I’m much happier when the loud music is a block or two away.

I guess I’ve never really understood the appeal of exceedingly loud music. I mean, I understand it for concerts, where you need to be loud enough so a sea of excited people can hear you on stage. Loud concerts make perfect sense to me, even if the volume from a block away is about right for me personally, obviously when you have thousands of screaming fans, you need the music sufficiently loud that everyone can hear your kicking ukulele riff.

But what I don’t understand is music played at that volume for the benefit of somewhere between 1-5 people. For example, the car that drove by the North Adams street fair this past Sunday, containing a single driver and no passengers, but with music sufficiently loud to drown out even the street magician using a microphone. I guess it’s possible that the driver knew that weekend was a solid sound festival, and this streetfair had a sound that was quieter and perhaps liquid sound at its loudest with no high-powered stereo equipment of our own, and decided he would do the neighborly thing and drive up Main Street with music loud enough for the whole street to hear, as an act of audio generosity.

Obviously, that volume is far greater than anyone would need so close to their own earholes, especially while mostly encased in a small metal box on wheels, so I think sonic philanthropy is the only plausible explanation. Likewise, the people on my street who play music at very high volume obviously are going far beyond what is necessary for them to hear the music, so obviously they’re being considerate and trying to provide music to all of us.

Although at least the music drowns out the shouting. For whatever reason, my street seems to boast a constant stream of young kids walking down the street and shouting at each other. Sometimes mere summons, sometimes vulgarity and invective... all in all, it has been making me more uncomfortable than Paula Deen at a NAACP meeting.

I’m not sure when walking down the street yelling threats and insults at each other became a popular activity for kids. I mean, maybe it was popular in the old days, but surely today’s kids should have other pastimes, like playing with their phones. There’s no reason they shouldn’t be texting each other threats and insults instead, like civilized 21st century kids.

Then again, it’s because they’re 21st century kids that the whole problem is happening in the first place. I don’t mean to cast any blame on Wilco, but this modern music is obviously linked to the cacophony of solid sound. When I was young, I didn’t listen to the solid sound of Wilco. I listened to Simon and Garfunkel, because they knew exactly what I wish I could listen to today:

The sound of silence.

Seth Brown is a humor writer, the author of "From God To Verse," and is an old friend of darkness. His work appears weekly in the North Adams Transcript, and weakly on RisingPun.com.


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