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Gangsta Rap & Hearing Loss
Below is a copy of a memo I FAXed to the National Political
Congress of Black Women. For anyone who would like to
contact them, the FAX number is 202/625-0499.
They did not reply to this. Maybe they could use a little more
-- Michael Wright
MEMO TO: Dr. C. Delores Tucker
National Political Congress
of Black Women
FROM: Michael Wright
Scientific Social Research
SUBJECT: Gangsta Rap
DATE: January 24, 1997
I read in today's Dallas Morning News about your
organization's concerns about vulgar and violent
audio entertainment. (I hesitate to call it "music").
I am sympathetic, but have some comments to make
regarding the strategy for minimizing the influence
of the marketers and producers of this noise.
Of course, there are difficult constitutional issues which
have to be approached when we discuss anything having
to do with objectionable material which passes for
I propose a way to circumvent this entire discussion:
treat it as a health issue. The main health issue is
noise-induced hearing loss, a problem which now affects
about 10 million Americans, according to an estimate
published by the National Institutes of Health several
years ago. Both live performances and recordings
by rock bands and rap groups are big contributor to
Audiologists have recognized this problem since the
late 60s, when surveys of young people began showing
levels of hearing impairment once thought typical
of the elderly. Still, there is very little recognition of
this problem today.
Guidelines published in audiological literature more
than 2 decades ago stated that sound levels above
85 decibels for time intervals greater than 2 hours were
unsafe. At that time, the average decibel level for a
rock band was 105. Due to advances in electronics,
amplifiers today are much more powerful.
Government regulation of sound levels at all public
events where amplifiers are used is necessary to
preserve the hearing health of our nation. As long as the
rules are enforced across the board for all types of
performances without regard to content, there would
be no censorship issues. The rappers would be free
to express their vulgar material, as long as it did not
exceed safe sound levels.
In the long run, this rule would severely undermine
the rappers and others who present violent and vulgar
material. Loudness is at the very core of what they
call their "art." Turning up the amps gives the performers
a sense of power and domination over their audiences.
Real musicians whose performance is based upon quality
rather than loudness do not need this, and would be
comfortable performing at safe sound levels.
Please feel free to contact me to discuss this.
QUIET-LIST: Internet Mail List and Forum for discussion of Noise Pollution,
Soundscape Awareness, and the Right to Quiet. Email: "firstname.lastname@example.org"
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For info, send message "info quiet-list" to same.
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