Right to Quiet Society Noiseletter
Fall 2010 – page 5

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Teen proves hard rock's bad for you

By Lorraine Eaton, The Virginia Pilot

SUFFOLK, Va. Your mom was right. Rock 'n' roll really does rot your brain. That's according to David Merrell, a 16 year old Nansemond River High School student, whose science experiment supports what parents have been saying for years: Hard rock taints the brain well, at least the brains of mice.

Using 72 male laboratory mice, a stopwatch, a 5 by 3 foot maze and the music of Mozart and Anthrax, David worked with an Old Dominion University statistician to establish that hard rock impedes learning. In the process, the rising junior captured top honours in regional and state science fairs and earned accolades from the Navy and the CIA. "Don't let your kids listen to hard rock music," he said. "I think it has a major negative effect."

To prove his point, David assembled three separate groups of 24 mice: a control group, a hard rock group, and a classical group. To ensure scientific validity, each white mouse weighed between 15 and 20 grams, was 4 to 6 weeks old and was bred to ensure no genetic abnormalities existed.

The mice spent the first week getting used to their controlled environment in David's parent's basement. They received measured feedings and 12 hours of light each day. Each mouse navigated the maze to establish the base time of about 10 minutes. Then David started piping in music 10 hours a day. The control group navigated


without music. He put each mouse through the maze three times a week for three weeks.

The results: The control group shaved five minutes from its original time. The mice that navigated the maze with Mozart knocked 8 1/2 minutes off their time. But the group listening to hard rock bumped through the maze, dazed and confused, taking an average of 30 minutes, tripling the amount of time it previously took to complete the maze.

Most noticeably, the hard rock mice didn't sniff the air to find the trails of others that came before them. "It was like the music dulled their senses," David said. "It shows point blank that hard rock has a negative effect all around. I can't think of a positive effect that hard rock has" on learning. In fact, David thinks that the negative effects go well beyond learning.

During the four month experiment David housed each mouse in separate aquariums. That's because last year, for a similar project, he kept each group together. The results were horrific. "I had to cut my project short because all the hard rock mice killed each other," David said.

David's awards include first place in the behavioural science division at the Virginia State Science and Engineering Fair and the Tidewater Science Fair. He also won Northern Virginia Community College's Veterinary Technology Award and accolades from the Newport News Art Commission, the Science and Humanitarian Symposium at James Madison University, the Navy, and the CIA.

A sign of our times

Recently I was browsing through the children's clothing department of a large store, searching for a birthday gift for my grandson's upcoming fourth birthday. While checking the boys' section, I found some T Shirts that looked promising, noting that almost all of them were stamped with illustrations geared to catch the interests of five to ten year old boys: Olympic logos, prominent hockey and football teams, assorted wild animals, etc.

Suddenly, I picked up a royal blue T Shirt, embossed in black letters with the words "Play it louder" across the front. Written in lower case and using bright canary yellow, the last two letters "er" stood out clearly, drawing attention to the imperative.

I was truly dismayed and saddened. It reminded me of an earlier era when gaudy billboards and flashy magazine pages advertised cigarettes,


using images such as the famous Marlborough man: a pitch both to habitual adult smokers as well as impressionable adolescents, contemplating a cool sophisticated image for themselves.

Currently, young people especially are being encouraged—indeed exhorted—to play music as loud as possible, no holds barred.

Just as former tobacco advertisements failed to portray the ghastly health repercussions of smoking, our younger generation is being duped into believing that excessively loud music is a great idea, certainly without any ill effects.

How very sad!

— By Carole A. Martyn

Sky Talk with conductor Frank Strobel

Frank Strobel brings tears of joy and sadness to people’s eyes. He knows that the music can make or break a film. The conductor and artistic director of the European Film Philharmonic spoke with LH Magazin’s Tobias Haberl about the timeless quality of silent movies, musical noise pollution in daily life and our fear of unaccustomed sounds.

LH Magazin: In an interview you once spoke out strongly against the “musical noise pollution” all around us. What exactly were you referring to?


Strobel: That we are constantly exposed to background music: on the subway, at shopping centres, on television. When I go online and open a website, horrible music assails my ears, and even news programmes have some kind of music in the background. It’s awful. I hope that all of us will soon become more aware of this kind of noise pollution and put an end to it.

— Excerpted from Lufthansa Magazin, May 2010

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