The Loudness War

Dear Eleanor and Wesley,

A terrible trend has taken over the music of my gerenation. By now it is likely impossible to listen to a song that is both loud and soft. The dynamic audio spectrum has literally been homogenized to a singular unit. It is simply on or it is off. I liken this to filmmakers choosing to regress all new movies back to black and white. I’m telling you this because it is my fault. More on that in a moment.

The war started because of a simple human disposition. When played side by side, people tend to think that a louder music clip is better. As a result, music producers started using a devilish tool called compression that squashes the sound by cutting off the sonic ends. Music stayed consistently loud and people thought it sounded consistently good. That is until they got tired or wanted to feel something. Loud music is initially full of tremendous energy. Eventually it is only capable of making you feel one thing: tired. On the other hand, the delicate appeal of a whispered melody or the powerful swell of a massive crescendo is capable of emotional language that can border transcendence. The producers have amputated the emotion.

Why would they do that? Why let music devolve? Because me and all my friends don’t listen to music. We only hear it. We don’t want transcendence because we prefer mere presence. We want it there, safe, unchanging, fading slowly into the background. Just don’t let it get in the way.

I am prone to compression; chopping off the emotional edges and squashing the idiosyncrasies of life’s polyphonic movements. I can seek consistency to the point that even the good things fade into background. The thing is that you two are full of wonderful, beautiful, impractical idiosyncrasies that upset the consistency of my defaults. I will fight to celebrate those. Some outbursts are meant to be indulged. Sought out stillness is something we can learn to absorb. Life isn’t about living at a singular, perpetual volume. We can do better than regress to the mean. Along the way though, I’ll need all the reminders I can get and I am certain you will not fail to provide them.



One comment

  1. “We can do better than regress to the mean.”

    Good stuff man. I like the idea that average, when it comes to trends, is actually less than average when it comes to possibility.

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