Not too long ago, I was nonchalantly browsing through Facebook, when I happened upon a video (below). Its description read “No music, just pure straight-six eargasm.” My immediate reaction was “This is exactly what I need right now.”
Over the past few years I’ve become a much more subdued person compared to the loud and rather boisterous version of myself from my not-so-distant youth. I’d rather spend my days in quiet coffee shops than bustling city centre shopping malls. I’d sooner join in on a quiet, low-key evening with a few friends rather than party it up loudly until the wee hours of the morning.
It’s not so much that I dislike the company of people, rather that I hate the constant barrage of noise that permeates everyday living in a modern society. Noise is everywhere, it’s all-consuming and it’s inescapable. Generally, over 70% of us are subjected to levels of noise considered above safe levels on a daily basis which could result in long-term hearing problems.
A very big issue that I have with noise is that it quickly becomes overwhelming. I don’t know how much this differs from the average person, but I am terrible at conversing over even a low din. Even at the average family restaurant my ability to understand individual words and sentences over slight background noise or music diminishes into some murky socially-awkward abyss, leaving me stumbling for a reply that could be completely inappropriate to a question that could simply be rhetorical. Either that, or I’m nodding faux-enthusiastically at the stranger who simply said “So what’s your name?”
But my ability to hold conversation is far from the only reason that I avoid noise as much as I possibly can. A noisy environment for me can become very claustrophobic. I don’t have any issue with small, enclosed spaces, but during noisy events I find myself very quickly struggling to catch my breath. The cacophony around me acts as an even more overbearing metaphysical enclosure than the actual physical walls that surround me on four sides.
I work in retail, and if you’ve ever walked into a shopping mall or even a convenience store any time within the last ten years, you’ve probably been met by five-year-old chart-topping hits as they blast over the stores integrated PA system. My game store was no different. I say was no different, as due to new advertising deals that have been made with numerous publishers, we now have a small selection of maybe 5 or 6 songs that play over some of the latest video-game trailers. Over. And over. And over. And over.
Try listening to this song on repeat (specifically from the 2:00 mark in order to really emulate the experience of hearing it in the Tomb Raider trailer AGAIN AND AGAIN) before continuing onto the next paragraph.
I personally don’t understand this need for every public place to be playing music at all times, no matter the situation. Supposedly it’s to make shopping more “sensory” and “experiential.” The problem with this is that life in its entirety is becoming more sensory. Flashing images, loud sounds, faster lifestyles, denser cities, accelerated developments. Everything is loud.
As a young teen, I would play music through my earphones at ear-bleedingly loud volumes. Now, when my Android phone warns me that listening to any audio above a certain volume can damage my hearing, I’m all too happy to let it artificially limit my listening experience. I’m a changed man.
It would be hyperbolic of me to state that Life Is So Much Better Without ALL Music, but when you limit your exposure to music and other superfluous noise, you allow a certain self-reflection to take place. Your thoughts become that much clearer. Your sense of self is allowed to flourish. You become much more free as a person.
I’ve begun transferring this knowledge over to my gaming sessions, and whilst some games thrive on their musical scores (seriously, play Journey RIGHT NOW,) some games just feel artificial and cumbersome without the Music slider set to nil.
Imagine the thrill of being chased by a Deathclaw in Fallout, unaware of its presence behind you until it’s much too late to comfortably prepare because the battle music didn’t arbitrarily remind you that now it’s gunning time. Equally so, engross yourself within the experience of the Sole Survivor/Lone Wanderer/Courier as you explore a desolate wasteland that at times can be truly lonely, especially so when you don’t have an orchestral unit following you at your heels with every step. I can’t imagine there would be many specialised flautists in an apocalyptic Boston.
Fallout isn’t the only exception. Try it out with The Witcher 3, The Division, ARK: Survival Evolved. These are all games with great musical accompaniment, but truthfully speaking... Why do they in the first place?
It seems that somewhere along the line, humanity as a whole became cripplingly afraid of the silence, when truly it’s something to be cherished and celebrated. As you go about your weekly grocery shop next time, pay attention to how much music you’re bombarded with, and how little silence you actually get to enjoy. You might be surprised.