Right to Quiet Society Noiseletter
Winter 2011 – page 4

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Ear-witness report on New Year’s noise

At 9 p.m. on New Year’s Eve in Baden, Lower Austria, the fire crackers have already been bursting and cracking for hours. What used to be for only ten minutes around mid-night some years ago is getting more each year. In Vienna the party started already around noon, with loud “music” emanating from several stages along the “New Year’s Eve Trail” between St. Stephen’s

 

Cathedral and City Hall. New Year’s Eve in Malden would not have made you happy, we heard from the Netherlands. No spooking spirits would have dared lurking that night for all the noise. It was a war-like atmosphere. The only positive aspect of this could be that the Chinese economy greatly benefited from the sales of fire crackers.


Call for Quiet Revolution

On October 23, 2010, The Vancouver Sun published an article by Douglas Todd about the almost omnipresent audio-entertainment in stores, restaurants, offices etc. Under the headline “A (quiet) call to arms: Let's silence those stores”, Mr. Todd wrote in part:
“Loud music has become fashionable in clothing stores and restaurants – for one thing, it gets people to drink more. Music has its place, but the retail realm isn't it. Anybody want to help me start a Quiet Revolution? What we need is a Quiet Revolution. Unwanted noise is growing out of control in urban life. Specifically, we need to challenge North American restaurants and retail outlets that blast out increasingly louder music.

Care to join me in the hunt for the Metro Vancouver restaurants, and clothing stores, that play the most grating music at the highest volume? There are, unfortunately, thousands of contenders. Blaring music has become strangely fashionable among businesses offering patrons something to eat, drink and wear. What could be the reason for so many restaurant owners and retail outlets to crank their musical sound levels through the stratosphere?

Some say they're trying to create a fun atmosphere. But would you be shocked to hear psychological studies also show that loud music increases sales of everything from blouses to beer?

Instead of a Quiet Revolution like the one that brought greater freedom to Quebec in the 1960s, we need a revolution that gives us liberation from unnecessarily loud mu-sic/noise in restaurants and stores.

The kind of music they play typically adds up to little more than noise pollution, but it's pollution we pay for. The art of conversation is being snuffed out at a host of restaurants, which are now so thick with mindless pop-rock and other kinds of music that you can barely hear what table-mates are saying. While some restaurateurs believe loud music creates an infectiously enjoyable atmosphere, I find it's mostly a human-connection killer.

 

And don't get me started on how disastrous loud music is for those who are even slightly hearing impaired, including almost anyone over age 60. Blaring music is keeping many seniors, with good money they'd otherwise be willing to spend on dining, at home.

To be sure, sometimes it's bored staff members at restaurants who crank up the volume for their own entertainment. But more often it's restaurant policy. And asking your server to turn down the decibels works only infrequently.

But I can tell you that if North Americans grew interested in starting a Quiet Revolution we would be supporting those who have joined Europe's emerging slow-food movement against mindless consumption, not to mention the related crises of obesity and addiction.”

Link to Mr. Todd’s blog

Prominent CBC Radio show-host Michael Enright revealed a list of ten “Things to be boycotted in the New Year” on Sunday, January 2. His choice No. 8 follows below:

"8) Restaurants that play loud music. This one is difficult. For some reason people who run restaurants can't conceive of a race of humans who like to eat without cheesy music in the background. Almost every restaurant has music. If you ask them to turn it down, they look at you with dismay. It's part of the modern neurosis that say we cannot abide silence of any kind. We must always have some kind of noise intruding into our lives for however briefly.”


We applaud both Mr. Todd and Mr. Enright for publicly expressing their dismay and disapproval of unnecessary and unhealthy noise. In places that we all need to go to this imposition ought to be boycotted, if not banned.

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