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June 29, 2011

PUBLIC NOISE PRIVATE NOISE

"Enjoy the ______"

The ever-gifted Martin Gore of Depeche Mode predicted the way electronic music would change the world, and he humanized the sometimes cold genre with humane, sexual, morally challenging lyrics. “Enjoy the Silence” functions as a wicked club hit and perennial mixtape favorite, but also as a heartbreaking ballad about being overloaded by modern life. Communicating, despite all our tools and the “effortless” way machines work together, is still strangely difficult. Not all people face this issue (because many folks can’t even dream of having fancy smart phones and laptops and recording collections). But, for those souls who have been given some latitude by life (and access to technology), it can be a new and disorienting time. The psychic stress and mental real estate media consumes is at an all-time high. Wait, is it already time to update your operating system?

Consider early hunter-gatherers building temples in 13,000 BC or the 32,000-year-old paintings in Chauvet Cave (see Herzog’s awesome film “Cave of Forgotten Dreams”). These humans gave everything they had to make a statement, to create art and represent their beliefs. Music was there, essential — yet so culturally different it’s impossible to truly imagine what it meant. The Neanderthal hyoid bone has been dated as far back as 60,000 years … songs and speech developing with our ability to examine the vastness and mystery of life. (BOOM! Saxophone kitten on motorcycle pop-up ad.) Train of thought … derailed.

We have access to more information than any generation but haven’t been taught how to process (or connect with) the content any more than those early humans searching a Paleolithic landscape for meaning. We scan, get restless, flip, scan. Thirty seconds of a song, key words in emails/online news. We say “think different” because it takes too long to say “differently.” So, I would like to make a few suggestions here to gently discuss media hygiene (especially in regards to music consumption). Aural cleansing. A small dosage could help purge that “I have 5,000 songs in the iPod yet nothing sounds good” feeling. Maybe we can ease that sense of disconnection brought on by a flood of sound and images over a thousand screens. One note: If you only like to listen to ringtones, please stop reading now and consult an exorcist.

1. Sit very still for five minutes. Seriously. It may sound trite, but try to sit for five minutes with no other activity. Please move all tech devices out of your reach. (New parents, this will be tough, but it’s worth the time.)

2. Just listen. Once again, sounds easy. Really listen to whatever is around you at the moment. You may hear a human heartbeat. It may be your own.

3. Pick one album, preferably one that you hardly remember having. Put it on “just because.” Thrift? It’s wild how many 99-cent used LPs become lifelong friends if you give them a chance. Old tapes, CDs — heck yeah. Take a break from your lumbering gigabeast of MP3 tracks and rock the A-side on Future Shock three times in one day!

4. No TV days. TV can actually be an incredible way to experience music, but usually it can’t help but try to sell you cars and steaming foodstuffs. Remind that glowing portal of media madness who’s boss! You may miss hearing how those local penguins figured out how to stay cool this summer (hint: It was ice), but now you have time for more listening.

5. Free music! Louisville is “city-lucky” to have so many free (often all-ages) concerts. Squeeze-bot Sundays at Nachbar, U of L classical shows, bluegrass at the farmers markets, WFPK’s “Live Lunch” series and touring bands at Waterfront Wednesday, in-stores at ear X-tacy ... amazing.

Feel better?

As always, this column is dedicated to loving music and provoking a spirited discussion between friends. Here’s to the power of silence and to your next favorite song, played on whatever media makes you happy (except ringtones).

P.S.: Here are several timeless albums that offer a rare peace of mind — headphones optional: Juana Molina — Segundo; Arvo Pärt — Tabula Rasa; Ambrose Akinmusire — When The Heart Emerges Glistening; Cinematic Orchestra — Ma Fleur; Kronos Quartet performs Philip Glass (1995); Rachel Grimes — Book of Leaves; Talk Talk — Laughing Stock.

Please send your list of “albums that saved my life” to exoskeleton15@gmail.com.