Once again, the Kerrisdale Business Association arbitrarily decided to regale shoppers along 41st Avenue with Christmas music broadcasted throughout December from speakers fixed to public lampposts, still, to our knowledge, without a City permit. In promotional material, they boasted that "Kerrisdale will really rock this season." From the flurry of pro and con letters exchanged in the Vancouver Courier on the subject, and the reactions of some members of our Society, we know that the merchants have lost at least some business through their flouting of Vancouver's bylaw against such broadcasting, to which the City seems to have turned a deaf ear.
The issue is not at all one of dislike for Christmas music, for many of us joyously partake of the familiar carols at times and places of our own choosing. It is an issue of the public, on public property, being force-fed sounds chosen by the Kerrisdale Business Association at times and places dictated by them. It is a stressful distraction for some of us, and for those who wear hearing aids it can be particularly uncomfortable.
The following article describing the situation in Japan clearly illustrates where such monopolization of the public soundscape can lead.
Japan - the Land of Talking Machines
It starts at the airport and continues at the bank, with ATM machines talking. Even Japanese trucks have something to say: "I am turning left, I am turning left." That is only the beginning. In every Japanese city, there are admonitions to stand behind the yellow line, don't litter, don't use your cell phone; at the beach, machines warn the sand is hot and even suggest a warmup before swimming!
Most people take it in stride, but a professor has formed an anti-noise group. He has also written a book, The Noisy Japan in Which I Live. He particularly objects to messages that say, "Be kind to your children and try to be a good adult."Noise victims have started a protest group, trying to convince authorities to turn down the volume, but many people are afraid to challenge authority. Consequently, many city people have moved to smaller towns.
Shortly after one man fled the city, authorities installed an alarm system reminding people to go to sleep. "They installed it 100' from my house, and installed another one on the other side," he exclaimed. "I had to listen to this in stereo!"
Noise-related articles appeared in the March, 2001 issues of both Harper's (Sound and Fury - the politics of noise in a loud society) and Smithsonian magazines. Our Society contributed reference material toward the former, and would note the correction that a ten decibel increase represents a subjectively determined perceived doubling of loudness, but no less than a ten- fold increase in sound intensity.
Lollipops for the Noise- Addicted
Bandai, a Tokyo company, makes a battery-operated lollipop holder that plays music inside people's mouths. The microphone-sized toy called Silent Shout plays a tune by vibrating a lollipop stuck into the device. The instrumental songs include a hip-hop rhythm.
"One of the merits is that the sound won't annoy others," said a company spokesman. It works by conducting sounds through the teeth. The sounds then echo into the inner ear. It sells for about $10 US.Lollipops for the Noise-Addicted
Entire contents © 2001 Right to Quiet Society. Cartoon © 1996 Right to Quiet Society
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