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Volume 4, Number 3
March, 1999

Please Stop the Music!

by David Mandell

It's time to stop the music. You can not go anywhere without being assaulted by blaring music. From elevators to grocery stores to basketball games, music is everywhere. The sounds of silence disappeared long ago.

Once confined to concert halls, home stereos, and car radios, loud music has replaced conversation. The first culprit was the elevator. A pop psychologist came up with the brainstorm that humans can not withstand a moment of peace as an elevator rises or falls. Music is piped in to the captive audience. While annoying, it is harmless as elevator rides are generally short term affairs. Tragically, like the creatures in Pandora's box, the idea has spread. Supermarkets followed the elevator. Tucked into the sleep inducing Lawrence Welk choruses are ads for the latest items geared to impulse shopping.

Movies were the next bastion to fall. No film is complete without an interminable soundtrack that has little to do with the plot and drowns out any dialogue. Moviesbecome little more than an excuse to promote an album. They offer no more than a lengthy video, available for free on MTV. Why spend ten dollars for a ticket when you can just turn on the cable television?

The worst culprit is the sports world. Marketing executives came up with the idea that they are not offering a ball game but an "entertainment event" This means for the fifty dollar ticket, fans endure a juvenile public address announcer who never stops shouting, a pointless light and smoke show, ear splitting sound effects, and worst of all, bad seventies music (is there another kind?) throughout the entire game.

While all team sports are guilty, basketball is the worst offender. The music of Queen and Gary Glitter, relegated to nostalgia parties everywhere else, is still at the top of the charts at NBA games. Every event in the game is a cause for yet another round of the Hey song or We Will Rock You, the two most unlistenable songs ever recorded. When the sound system is not blasting out seventies music it is harrassing fans with sound effects whenever the visiting team has the ball. Indianapolis features automobile engine noise and Charlotte blares out bee sounds. Scoreboards demand noise from the fans. When that failed to raise the roof in New Jersey, fans were subjected to taped sounds of cheering. The NBA was not too proud to borrow an idea from Milli Vanilli.

With the demise of the Boston Garden there is no place to watch a professional basketball game unassaulted. Outdoor sports are not much better. While baseball fans once clapped to encourage a rally, the sound system has taken over now, featuring recorded clapping. When a relief pitcher enters the games the system plays the Beatles classic Help. After one hundred sixty two games, even John, Paul, George, and Ringo get stale.

The only place to enjoy team sports now is through the Classic Sports network on television. A simple comparison of NBA games shown there and in the current season is startling. Watch the great battles between the Celtics and Lakers of the mid eighties and you can hear the basketball bouncing, sneakers screeching on the hardwood, and the players and coaches calling out plays. Today that is a distant memory. The players no longer dominate the action, the sound man does. When the marketing director of an arena boasts of its state of the art sound system, watch out. That means for your overpriced ticket you will lose some of your hearing.

There is some hope for the ear weary. Thanks to Andre Agassi, tennis fans can still enjoy a match. Five years ago the tennis tour introduced music to tennis matches. Agassi made it clear if the music ever returned, he would not. Tennis promoters canned the music fast.

Medical research has shown that simple physical activity like walking up stairs has health benefits for the cardio vascular system. It has another benefit. They still haven't figured out how to play seventies music in the stairwell.

David Mandell 71 East Town Street Norwich, CT 06360 860-887-7166, 886-5008 (fax)

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