Sometimes, I long to live in a time before speakers were invented. I have travelled extensively across the world. Everywhere I go, there is noise. I wonder to myself, why as a species do we need to constantly make noise?
It is difficult to find a truly quiet place. One where there is no one playing music and every shop and restaurant that one goes to has their own soundtrack. Often, you can hear the same music regardless of where you are — a downside of the process of globalization, a loss of a certain amount of local culture.
There have been a few times where I have gone to a restaurant or coffee shop and there has been no music playing. A little later it starts, and I find this quite jarring for the first few minutes until it blends into the background noise and my ears get adapted.
But if the point of the music is to become background noise, then is it worth having in the first place? Perhaps, the sound of people talking, cups being placed down, chairs being shuffled, is enough.
I wonder if, with the proliferation of speakers in every part of the globe, we have now lost the soundtrack of life.
It is not enough to go to the beach and hear the sound of waves or of the children playing, we need a beat. It is not enough to concentrate on our work and hear the rhythmic tapping of our fingers on the keyboard, we need some music to help us focus.
It is not enough to go for a walk and listen to the city or the countryside, we need to listen to something to block out the noise of the world.
Of course, this is not all negative. The ability to listen to the entire history of recorded music from a device in our pocket is amazing. This is something that previous generations would have loved, but we do need to ask if we are also losing something in the process.
I believe that a quiet environment is a precursor to being able to have deep thoughts. This doesn’t have to be about anything external, it can be thinking about your life and the choices that you have made, as well as your future plans.
These things are too important to have background music distract us.
Additionally, music that is half-listened to is not truly enjoyed. Because when splitting our attention to many tasks at the same time, none get done well. If you try an experiment to sit in a dark room and put on some of your favourite music and truly focus, you’ll gain a new appreciation and perspective.