Some quiet, please!

Posted 10.17.05

I live on a charming cul-de-sac, where the only noise is the delighted laughter of children playing outside. There are several dogs, but they don't bark much, and from spring through fall most of the sounds I hear outside are birds chirping.

But everywhere else the noise level is almost intolerable. I'm not just talking about muscle cars with boom boxes reverberating for blocks, or annoying music in stores and elevators.

The volume seems to be cranked just about everywhere. I recall when singers had to learn how to project their voices to "the back of the room." Now, everything is amplified, and costumes are augmented by tiny headsets glued to the cheeks of all the performers.

Don't buy seats at the National Arts Centre further forward than half way, or you'll be blasted by the huge speakers that flank the stage. Often the music is so distorted that it ruins even the best score.

What bothers me most is how every television program has suddenly become hyperactive.

I don't usually watch daytime TV, but when a friend suggested I catch a particular Oprah show, I was taken aback by her entrance. Like a rock star, Oprah entered the studio to frenzied applause and fans shouting at the top of their lungs.

What was worse is that she, too, announced every guest with a shout. "And here he is: MR. BIG STAR!" Her over-the-top enthusiasm whipped the audience into further screaming.

Is this really necessary? Aren't there other ways of showing your enthusiasm without roaring?

This seems to have begun with the game shows, but the infection spread, and now every talk show is full of artificial frenzy, full of whoops and hollers. Every talk show guest is "fabulous," "the absolute best," or "my very favorite person" (does Star Jones really "love" everybody?).

You can't escape by watching more serious fare. In both TV films and big-screen movies, the music designed to set the mood is so loud you can't hear the dialogue. And hold your ears when they break for commercial. The volume is cranked so high you have to grab the remote in order not to be blasted out of the room.

And now there is the I-Pod, the ubiquitous gizmo in the ears of every kid from six to sixteen. I worry that this has the same effect as the proverbial "beans in the ears," preventing any communication from the people around them.

I have nothing against background music, but the key word here is "background." When our ears are filled with music cranked as high as the amplifier can take it, and every TV program shouting at us, is it any wonder we're stressed?

And with all this noise, when do families and friends talk to each other?

When do they have real conversations, not random comments punctuating the pulsing rap music or the screaming TV host?

Does anybody else want to join me in a whispered plea to "Keep it down"?

Barbara Floria Graham is the author of the 20th anniversary edition of Five Fast Steps to Better Writing and Mewsings/Musings. Her website: www.SimonTeakettle.com

Copyright © 2005 Barbara Floria Graham/Log Cabin Chronicles/10.05