Thursday, August 11, 2016

Sonic assault

After years of working in Cuba and Guatemala I still cannot get used to the violent sonic assault from whoever wants to set up a soundsystem on the next corner and blast religion, music, commercial advertisement, whatever at noise levels high enough to cause serious aural damage (no exaggeration -- I've hung around with enough musicians to have a pretty good sense of this). To say nothing of wreaking havoc on one's concentration. Sometimes it's just a truck SLOWLY making its way through the aldea at 6 a.m. advertising the fact that they purchase scrap metal; after what seems like an eternity the truck moves on up the road 200 yards or so and eventually far enough away so that you can't really hear it. When I lived in Chinique, the outdoor Evangelical revival meetings went on for hours, from early evening until late at night and since I lived in the center of town, earplugs and putting a pillow over my head only did so much to muffle the sound. Right now I'm in some friends' home downtown (such as it is) Olintepeque and someone has set up a noisy sound system (seems like it's in the plaza in front of the church and the municipal building; I didn't want to get any closer as the sound is unbearable enough sitting inside the house, so I didn't fully investigate the exact location) playing a variety of music. The music is loud enough, but they have the sound level jacked up even higher for the live announcers, so loud that I cannot even force myself to follow what they are saying. I'm not super-sensitive to noise per se-- I can tolerate loud live music fine, as long as it's not over-amplified. Being in the middle of the drums at the Central Park rumba or right next to brass band at a second line parade -- that's fine. But once you start throwing in lots of amplification, and especially now as it's all recorded music, with the volume pumped up way beyond what the original recording artists surely intended.... yuck.

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