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Last Updated: Friday, 11 November 2005, 12:09 GMT
Turn it down!
Woman smoking in a pub
A quiet pint? Just try it
A smoking ban is one thing, but how about excessive noise levels? In our new Readers' Column, which replaces Pete Clifton's Editor's Column, Alan Morrison says that we waste too many decibels.

OK, so I'm a musician - a sensitive soul - not well-disposed to levels of loud noise, unless of course, I'm the one who's making it. But I can't be the only one who lurches for the remote when volume levels seem to surge during TV commercial breaks.

For a little light relief, I escape to my local boozer, one of a dwindling number of the old-fashioned variety. There I sit with my pint of real ale, enjoying the pleasures of idle banter and passive smoking.

Or at least I did until recently. Now a hi-decibel affront has invaded - live football matches and the landlord's favourite garage mix at levels which simply cannot be ignored.

I don't believe this nerve-jangling entertainment is really to the taste of most punters; nor is it possible to hold a conversation. Back outside, it's a relief to return to the relative tranquillity of the nearby dual carriageway.

Alan Morrison
I'm told that on some jukeboxes now, you can buy three minutes rehab in the form of pure silence
Alan Morrison

Unlike the smoking issue, the frustrating thing about this unmitigated earache is that it's considered bad form to complain. Do, and you're received like Victor Meldrew or simply ignored - the implication being "if you don't like the music here, guv, well, you know where you can go".

To avoid any such unpleasantness, my favourite tactic is to gesticulate furiously, animatedly, but silently. Whilst the ear basher can't understand a word I'm mouthing, the message comes over quiet and clear.

I'm told that on some jukeboxes now, you can buy three minutes rehab in the form of pure silence. This, I suppose, is a sort of acoustic equivalent of bottled water. A friend of mine has been known to employ a cheaper method involving the speaker cable and a pair of sharp scissors.

Pump up the volume

It's no wonder that so many of us download music from the internet; record shops turn buying a CD into an aural assault course involving:

  • a sprint through Rock & Pop (quickly, before eardrums burst);
  • then through Classical section (plenty of competition here);
  • reach destination (perhaps - irony of ironies - Easy Listening);
  • sample latest soothing sounds on headphones (at full volume to drown out the cacophony);
  • purchase at speed, then retrace steps at speed.

The marvel of digital music technology has its nasty side effects.

Man walks past iPod ads
A pocketful of aural effluent
Whilst my entire music collection now slips into my top pocket, nobody else on the train wants to hear the kind of percussive effluent that's leaking from my headset - though I'd probably be oblivious if someone asked me to pipe down.

Our pocketfuls of trendy electronica seem to cloud the aural landscape more by the day; on my mobile, I can whisper to someone on the other side of the planet, but the wretched thing never misses an opportunity to embarrass me by going off in a quiet bookshop. And don't get me started on those dreadful ring tones.

How best to fight back against these wasted decibels? My advice is to complain where necessary, show auditory kindness to one another and, whatever you do, stay out of record shops.


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