What is Music Pollution? Part 2

Piano Lessons / music theory / What is Music Pollution? Part 2


This is a response to our first video about Music Pollution which got a great response from all of you!


To summarize our first video, I explained that music being played everywhere you go actually harms music appreciation more than it enhances it. Music is an art form that is meant to be listened to and treasured, not something that should be relegated to the background. In this entry I want to address some other issues with background music I’ve noticed and how it continues to degrade the artform form we all love.


The other day I was stuck on the phone listening to “hold music” which consisted of the same thirty second loop playing over and over. The quality of the music was terrible over the phone. The song itself was just repetitive noise and for some reason the music is about ten times louder than the voice of the caller. Who can possibly appreciate this?


If you were to go back to the Baroque era, you’d find that most musical instruments of the time were very quiet. The clavichord is an instrument that is so quiet that you can barely even hear it from across a small room! The harpsichord – which was the most robust keyboard instrument of the time, was also not nearly as loud as the modern piano. These instruments were meant to be enjoyed in close and intimate settings with quiet audiences.


As time went on, louder instruments developed and eventually electronic amplification came about and instruments could fill entire stadiums with sound! The original amplification methods were crude and distorted. But as technology has advanced, the sound quality has gotten better and better. But how engineers have dealt with amplification are troubling.


How many times have you gone to a club to listen to a group only to find that the amplification was so loud that the music was no longer enjoyable? You might even have to stick ear plugs in your ears in order to tolerate the sound at a level that doesn’t harm your hearing. Even in movie theaters the sound can be pumped up so high that it’s beyond a level of comfort. I often wonder if this could possibly be enjoyable for anyone.


When technology was more limited, louder was better. With technology today the range of volume is nearly unlimited and sound engineers now are faced with having to control the level of volume with their ears and not the indicators on their technology. Unfortunately, there are engineers who do sound more by eye (looking at gauges) than by ear!


Equalization curves allow you to make something loud but still enjoyable and not damaging to the ears. By emphasizing certain frequencies and de-emphasizing others you can achieve a pleasing level of sound even with very high volume. Some forward thinking restaurants will actually turn down the vocal spectrum of their audio which enables music to play in the background while facilitating conversation at the table.


We live in an age where the art of music goes far beyond the creation of the music itself. How music is played or presented has become an art form itself. Sound engineers are part of the musical performance and in many instances are integral to the experience.


I’m not sure how as individuals we can convey the idea that something doesn’t have to be deafeningly loud to be enjoyable. Some acoustic instruments require amplification in order to be heard. But often times it’s amplified beyond a comfortable level.


This is a very important topic to me and I would love to hear from all of you. If you have any questions about this topic or any others, please contact us at: Info@LivingPianos.com (949) 244-3729