Why is Loud “Background Music” Everywhere?

music, noun – vocal or instrumental sounds (or both) combined in such a way as to produce beauty of form, harmony, and expression of emotion

noise, noun –
a sound, especially one that is loud or unpleasant or that causes disturbance.

Seriously, what ever happened to quiet and calming spaces? I find myself being assaulted by blaring music in almost every public place. Restaurants, retail stores, parking lots, even at the gas pump, or in church before the service. At sporting events, I take earplugs – not for the actual sounds of the game, voice of the announcer or cheers of the fans – but rather for the loud music played during any small breaks in the action. Why is this happening? Who thinks this is a good idea? What is their rationale?

My belief is that most “background music” is simply noise; noise that isn’t healthy. This high volume surround sound prevents conversation and relaxation, keeping us all shouting and agitated. You shouldn’t be hoarse after dining out with friends. Being continually amped up simply isn’t good for us. It’s another form of stress.

It occurred to me that this is all very recent in human history. Sound recording only began in the late 1800’s and widespread amplification is a child of the 60’s or 70’s. Before that, one either played acoustic music oneself, or one attended a live performance specifically in order to enjoy the music. Other than that, there was no music. It was a special treat, for people’s enjoyment. Can we get back to that?

This seems to me to be typical of human progress. Our breakthrough technologies begin as blessings yet somehow morph into curses (or at least mixed blessings). And we know that with “progress” there is no going back.

For myself, I’m playing defense. As mentioned, I take earplugs to sporting events. If I walk into a store with very loud music, I walk right out again. In restaurants with music volume sufficient to inhibit conversation, I’ll typically ask my server if it can be turned down a bit. I’ll bet I do this at least seven or eight times a year. Perhaps surprisingly, I have never had any say no, and often the volume goes down considerably. (Maybe they don’t like it either.)

What do you think?

Pete