Tag Archive: louder

How classical music got louder

Photo credit: Liam Keane licensed under CC BY 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This wonderful piece in the New York Times discusses how classical music evolved from quiet to loud. The article discusses both how composers wrote generally quiet music until Beethoven started writing louder music, with those who followed him writing even louder music. Then orchestras started playing more loudly, to the point where audiences put their fingers in their ears during the loudest passages.

My wife and I attend concerts of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. When Essa-Pekka Salonen was music director, his specialty was conducting Mahler’s works. The sound levels were tolerable.

I developed tinnitus and hyperacusis at the end of 2007, after a one-time exposure to loud noise at a New Year’s Eve dinner in a restaurant.

The current music director, the wonderful Gustavo Dudamel, replaced Maestro Salonen in 2009. Gustavo–everybody in LA just calls him Gustavo–conducts the orchestra at a greater sound level. Especially for works like Stravinsky’s Firebird, I find the sound painfully loud.

I just insert my earplugs and enjoy the concert comfortably.

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He is the founding chair of The Quiet Coalition, an organization of science, health, and legal professionals concerned about the impacts of noise on health, environment, learning, productivity, and quality of life in America. Dr Fink also is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’ Health Advisory Council, and he served on the board of the American Tinnitus Association from 2015-2018.

The Sounds of Protest

Photo credit: John Hilliard licensed under CC BY 2.0

are getting louder. Alastair Boone, City Lab, writes about Stuart Fowkes, the founder of a new project called Protest and Politics, “a sound map that documents the sounds of protest, as they grow louder in cities around the world.” Boone reports that “from Brexit to Trump’s election, the past year has known more protests than many before it,” but he adds that Fowkes’ project includes sound from as early as the Gulf War in 1991.

Protest and Politics is part of a larger program founded by Fowkes, Cities and Memory, which is essentially a world sound map. What makes his new project different is that it is “the first to document the sounds of history.” “What’s great about this project is that it’s little slices of history,” Fowkes explains.

Listening to his recordings of protests in the United States, one can hear the same chants across the country. The “same sort of unity is present abroad,” where “casserole protesting, for example, using pots and pans to make noise in lieu of voice,” which originated in Latin America, is also heard in recordings from Europe and Canada.

Taken together, Fowkes hears “something of a unified voice that’s becoming stronger, becoming louder.” He concludes that “[m]ore and more, people feel like they’re part of something.” And that is what Fowkes hopes people take away from listening to his project. Says Fowkes, “I think there’s a general feeling that we need to rise up and make our voices heard.”