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Jack Smith

Disparaging remarks about heavily amplified rock music bring out the sound and the fury

July 13, 1987|Jack Smith

My complaint against the super-amplification of sound has provoked many responses, pro and con, as I expected.

I am not surprised that people of my generation share my dislike of heavily amplified music; but I am surprised, and pleased, to hear from so many younger people, even if they disagree with me.

At least it means they read that particular column, if no others, which may not be the same as reading John Updike, but it's a start.

Most of the dissenting letters appear to have been written by school students, and most are from the same area in Orange County; so I suspect that they were inspired by a teacher, or that their authors are members of some group; that doesn't lower their value.

"You may be right," writes one of them, Rachel Brightwell of Mission Viejo, "but if someone has his stereo on at home very loud, so he is not disturbing anyone, what's your problem?"

I don't have any problem with loudness I can't hear.

"We have a new kind of music and a whole new era," Miss Brightwell continues. "Now the world is filled with kids and teen-agers who like their music loud. . . .

"I enjoyed reading your article, even though I didn't agree with most of it. I will read further articles of yours in the future."

I can't ask for more than that.

"I disagree in a way," writes John Bolinger of El Toro, "because the kids of today have their own mind of what they are going to do. If a kid has his music loud and the neighbors come over and complain, do you think the kid is going to turn his music down? No. But in a way you are right. Yes, the music is noisy and loud, but we are in the '80s. I hope to read another of your articles."

"I disagree that music is too loud," writes Carl Basinger of El Toro. "I think that the person should make the decision whether or not to have music loud or soft. Rock music sounds better loud and it should be up to the listener to make the decision of how loud the music should be."

Right on.

"I happen to be a big fan of hard rock," writes Jason Hatteberg of Laguna Hills. "For one, my music would not be the same without distortion, and amplification makes distortion. The louder the music, the better (the) distortion. If you really liked my kind of music and were listening to it, then took the amplification out, it would not be the same. If you are listening to Elizabethan airs and then put amplification in it, it would not be the same. . . ."

"There is no such thing as too loud," writes Todd Eisenbrey of Mission Viejo. "To me and to most people I know, the louder the better. I guess because I never grew up with quiet, I never cared for quiet music. Just like you never grew up with loud music, so you don't care for loud music. I think in this day and age if it's too loud, you're too old. I don't object to quiet music's lyrics, but the quietness kills me!"

Well, I guess I don't like loud music because I'm too old, and Todd doesn't like quiet music because he's too young.

"You talk about the amplification of music as if music should always be at a low volume," writes Stephen Singleton of Laguna Hills. "My feelings are that when I find music that I like at a loud volume I will tune it to a loud volume. I also find when music is at a high volume it gets my energy level up and I then feel good.

"After reading and thinking your article over, I tend to agree that there is a level that is too loud. You made a good point."

Notice that most of these letters are polite.

Some do accuse me, however, of some opinions that I not only did not express, but which I expressly disavowed.

"What I am complaining about," I wrote, "is not rock music but the extreme amplification of traditional music."

Further, I said, "I realize that amplification is an intrinsic part of hard rock music; loudness is essentially the message."

"Bah, humbug, sir," writes Gary E. Nordell of West Los Angeles. "The message of rock and roll is not 'essentially loudness.' Pick any album by Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Joni Mitchell, Bob Segar, Neil Young, Paul Simon and listen to the words. The message of rock and roll is: Individual Freedom, and thereby is a quintessentially American force for advancement in the world."

I don't deny it. But loudness evidently is essential to the dissemination of that message.

On the other hand, Maxwell D. Epstein of Santa Monica writes: "Start with the difference among talking, reading, radio, television and rock concerts. Those who entered this world at the TV stage love having their bones rattled by loud rock, as you suggested. It is for them just the next step along the passive trail, and moving toward passive is moving toward death. . . ."

And Phillip Kistler of Palm Desert argues that Arthur Schopenhauer anticipated rock music 150 years ago when he wrote: "I have long held the opinion that the amount of noise anyone can bear undisturbed stands in inverse proportion to his mental capacity, and may therefore be regarded as a pretty fair measure of it."

I believe I can hold my own without the help of that cranky old misogynist.

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