Cry me a river, Momus. There is a very specific reason why I don’t own an iPod, a Zen Micro or even a shitty Discman. (I did own one of the latter, but I destroyed it about three years ago in mock anarchist mode in front of a few friends when it began malfunctioning.) It’s because I enjoy room tone and the sound of natural space, even that occupied with a dim tune coming from an overhead garret. It’s because I love riding the subway and the buses lost in a book or fascinated by a group of people or overhearing some salacious cell phone conversation. It’s also because I value my ears. When I do any kind of audio engineering, I want to bring a fresh concentration to what I do. I don’t think humans were designed to be exposed to constant 24/7 audio input. I suspect, however, that the MySpace generation born just after me doesn’t yet know this.
It should be noted that humans can, in fact, say no to things such as television and portable audio recorders. One can also befriend neighbors and come to terms with precisely the kind of volume level that might aggravate them (or likewise). If a schmuck like me (who is often socially inept) can find a common level of respect among his neighbors, then so can Momus.
In other words, I take objection to Momus’s premise that the American landscape has been irrevocably saturated by music. I live in the Haight. It can get quite noisy from time to time. But I did take care to move into a pad that had affordable rent and solid walls. Forward thinking and planning can get you into desirable environments. Tolerance too.
But here’s another existential trade secret: by exposing my ears to the natural din of conversation during my MUNI commutes and within my inner sanctum, any sort of audio onslaught, whether it be my neighbor blasting jazz or the Fiona Apple obsession the folks at my local coffeehouse is not only more tolerable, but it can be tuned out, provided that some sanctuaries still remain.
I’ll be more concerned if they start piping wretched elevator music into the subways.