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Useful And Fantastic: Music As Noise – Part 4

Val Yule organised a survey which confirmed that the vast majority of youngsters like loud music.

Can very loud music affect the brain? What can be seen in brain scans? What can they show about functioning intelligence? Can longitudinal IQ test measures re-assure us?

We know that some forms of intelligence are rising world-wide, especially non-verbal IQs relevant to technology and pattern-matching. Babes work computers, people from the jungle can drive bulldozers. But what about verbal intelligence?

At a time when we need brains that can work at capacity, is there any evidence that long term exposure to very loud music might affect abilities such thinking of more than one thing at a time, connecting ideas, reasoning, concentration, intellectual curiosity, ability to face the problems of our time or mental stamina itself.?

Today there is more music around available to everybody than ever before. Some people live all the time in an ambience of music which surrounds them in public spaces. Music is played so loudly in cars that the noise shakes the streets.

At the same times we are singing less. Even the age-old lullabies sung to babies have disappeared.

None of us can escape other poeple's music. A great deal of it, especially at raves, discos and festivals, is very loud - louder than the noise permitted in factories. It is amplified to pack electronic punch, with drumming, percussion and repetitive beats,

I recall the concern years ago that Bing Crosby's crooning would soften brains becuase of its soppiness. Now there is hardly any concern about loud intrusive music. Are human brains adapating to louder decibels, or will there be long term effects which are not being monitored?

soppiness. There is hardly any concern about the present mass global experiments in loud music, vibration and percussion. . Are human brains really adapting to those decibels, or are there long-term effects that are not being monitored?

This neglect is striking compared to the established research showing long-term risks of deafness. The recommendation is then to take ear-plugs to parties, though the plugs do not cushion against the sensory impacts of noise on the bone behind the ear. In Melbourne. Austgralia, where gigs can be very loud, residents who object to the noise habe been advised to move elsewhere.

What long-term research there may be,should surely be readily available, either to reassure or to increase concern. Instead, there are commercial ads for ‘brain music’ guaranteed to stimulate your brain and 'improve' your neural connections.

Where are the longitudinal experiments with proper controls and proper measurements of brain function for something that is far more widespread than thalidomide ever was, and yet is not within the ambit of any Food and Drugs Administration?

TV, Sony Walkmans, i-pods, mpg, car radios, DVD players, home entertainment systems and Muzak in almost every public place make possible a constant ambience of musical noise. Loud music is used as torture in interrogating prisoners. Teenagers however are exposed to more of it. How does it affect them? Are they different to the teenagers of previous generations?

Two hundred teenagers completed a questionnaire I sent them after they had attended a loud disco. Tghes were Australian adolescents receiving a top-drawer education. Seventy percent described themselves as 'Very happy' or 'Cheerful', as well they might, and 65% said they were doing very well at school, and had no problems. Seven per cent wished they were happy and 6 per ent said they were not doing well at school.

The survey shows what an amazingly important part music plays in their lives, hardly less than sport, their astonishing knowledge of a very wide range of modern music genres, their lesser interest in other hobbies or concerns, and the reasons they gave for liking music to be very loud.

58% liked loud music, 33% liking it extremely loud, and all the rest did not mind it except for 6%, four girls and 8 boys whose other responses showed that they were clearly oddballs, not conformists. There was no difference between Australians and the foreign-born.

Music filled a large part of their lives, not only at the many partis, raves, discos, and school performances which they enjoyed. 87% liked music on when they studied, and 49% were keen to have this whenever possible. 95% liked to listen to music when they were travelling.

Why did they like very loud music?

The most common reason the teenagers gave for liking very loud music was that it stopped boredom (65%). Over half gave reasons such as it calmed them down, it excited them, and it entertained them. 37% used it to forget their troubles. Over half of those who liked very loud music, ‘louder than adults liked it, said they felt pumped, pumped with energy, high, energised, awesome, hyperactive, had a buzz, hyper, hypo, buzzed up, exhilarated, awesome, and WHEE! Afterwards they mostly still felt good but 20% said they felt ill effects, such as sleepy, tired, dizzy headaches, deaf, my ears hurt, my ears bleed and argggh!

Others who just liked loud music, or didn’t mind it also felt energetic, pumped and excited, but more of them reported ill effects, ‘a bit dizzy, jumpy, tired, dizzy but I think its the lights, shell-shocked, like my ears have exploded, exhausted, headache, tired and annoyed, ringing in my ears, sometimes my ears hate it.

Reports of feelings next day were mixed, many feeling over the top, refreshed, or a little tired, but 37% reported ill effects 'like I was smashed in the head with a bungee gold brick’ my head buzzes, sore neck, ‘sore but I felt great at the time’.

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