In my last post, I talked about walking in New York, and some classical music trivia I ran into.
But there’s more to say about walking. It was heavily hot, almost unbelievably so. If I came out from an air conditioned store, the heat was a shock, no matter how many times I encountered it. The air seemed to weigh three times what it normally does.
The streets were full of people, though, at least in the places I walked. And walking was disruptive. Every time I’d pass a store, and someone was coming out of it or going in, a blast of cold air would hit me. And, sure, this was welcome, but it was also jarring.
The smells were disruptive. Not just exhaust, but, striking without warning, smells of garbage, soot, and chemicals I might rather nobody identified.
And inside every store was music. I’m talking about major stores, like Macy’s and Bed, Bath, and Beyond, not to mention supermarkets and specialized boutiques. There was also music on the street, and sometimes in the subway. I couldn’t escape it. It was most offensive in the stores. I’m sure there are studies showing that people buy more when they’re entertained, but the effect, in the end, is as if someone had forbidden silence. We’re never to be left to ourselves for a moment.
But wait. Now have I contradicted what I’ve been writing in my posts about younger people and pop culture? Not at all. I don’t think that everything in the culture around us is wonderful. But the important point is that people who don’t spend time with high culture—people outside the arts (if such a phrase means anything)—aren’t therefore plunged into blasting music every moment of their lives, with no escape. Plenty of people in pop culture hate the constant noise as much as people who identify with classical music do. And they can escape it just as well with acoustic pop, ambient dance music, folk music, world music, and many kinds of jazz as classical music people can escape with string quartets and Chopin nocturnes.
Again we have to guard against the silly (and self-promoting) claim that only we have an alternative. Instead, if we want to fight the blasts of noise, we should ally ourselves with everyone who makes quiet and reflective music, in every genre. Besides, a lot of classical music is loud (and its loudness has been marketed to heavy metal fans). But that’s another story.