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Last night I ventured into a college bar
for a glass of wine. The place is a block
north of the University of Oklahoma.
Before ordering at the bar, I noticed a girl
with an acoustic guitar on stage. Since
the act wasn't an electrified rock group,
I figured it would be safe to be there
for a while without suffering noise abuse.
I was wrong. Even acoustic guitars with
pick-ups can belt out the decibels. The
"singer" did little but shriek and moan
with unintelligible lyrics while banging
away on the guitar with the few chords
People had to shout at each other to
converse, and this of course drove up
the noise level of the room even more.
The audience was largely indifferent to
the singer. At the end of a number, there
was polite and scant applause. I noticed
one girl standing at the end of the bar putting
her hands over her ears because she was
close to the speaker.
The "singer's" work was enough to reach
the threshold of ear pain, so I picked up my
wine glass and moved further away close
to the entrance, where the bar owner Joe
was leaning up against an old upright piano.
I asked Joe if anyone ever came in to play
the piano. He said no, it was out of tune.
I asked him if he was going to have it tuned,
and he said no, it was too expensive. In
fact, he said the piano was just taking up
space, and he was planning to get rid of it.
I then shifted the subject to the type of
entertainers he has at the bar. In the course
of this conversation, I said I didn't understand
a word the girl on stage had sung.
He said "You're hearing's shot, like mine."
In regard to the type of entertainment he
has, he made statements along the line of
"this is the way it has to be" and "we have
to stay up with the times."
It has long been my opinion that bar owners
have observed that there is a positive relationship
between loud audio entertainment and liquor
I didn't get a chance to ask anyone else in
the room if they understood the singer, so
there was no reference available by which to
evaluate his opinion that my inability to understand
the singer is explainable by hearing impairment.
I also haven't had a hearing test, but I have
probably suffered some hearing loss.
These age-related questions need to be approached
by funded researchers. Are we right-to-quiet advocates
simply a group of older people who have become
more sensitive to noise as we have aged?
Did I not understand the girl on stage because
my hearing is "shot," or could she have been
understood by listeners with normal hearing?
Nobody appeared to be paying much attention
to her. I propose that loud audio entertainment
promotes the sale of liquor in the following ways:
1. it attracts people to the club, just because
having live entertainment creates the impression
that "something is happening here." In our
noise culture, a quiet atmosphere has come to
represent a boring situation.
2. loud audio entertainment inflicts stress, and
bar patrons, unaware of noise as the source,
drink more in pursuit of stress relief.
One interesting experiment would be to take a group of
English-speaking young people (if such could be found)
from a society where the modern noise culture had not
intruded, and subject them to American bar culture and
interview them as to their responses.
-- Michael Wright
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