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Playing Music Too Loud: A Retrospective

My bandmate friends weren't too happy with me. We had been called before the dean of the college for playing music too loud late at night. The dean had just asked me if I had the habit of playing music so loud late at night at home. I gave the politically incorrect, but honestly correct answer. Yes, I have done this many times...

Numerous examples flooded my mind. Some of the examples recent to the question included my highschool band drummer and I jamming in my mom's art studio in the otherwise unoccupied garage apartment just off of my house. Many times we'd come home from a night out at parties or bars and spew out energy. There were often a variety of other musicians along with a small audience, sometimes just the two of us getting it out of our systems through a frenzied jam.

This same highschool band played at our highschool graduation party. It seemed that most of the class was there in a classmate's back yard while our four piece band played on a large deck of a stage. The volume brought the cops that night and we ended up dispersing.

So while we packed equipemnt, Mike, the drummer, talked me into driving us over to Sleepy Hollow Semitary...that's right, of the headless horseman fame...It's a real place. Anyway, two girls were going to meet us at the gate. He seemed kind of giddy about sneeking through the graveyard and trying to scare the girls from inside the semitary. I didn't quite share that level of glee, but I was curious about it all, and got a kick out of his enthusiasm, so was game. After parking the car on the street, Mike lead the way through what for me was totally uncharted and pitch black territory. We were talking and I had only his voice to tell me where to walk.

Suddenly, I heard a deadened thud in the distance and his voice was gone. "Mike? Mike? Ah...Mike?" I stood still for a moment considering my options when I heard a distant and measured "aauh." Mike had fallen what he estimated to me to be maybe 20 feet off a cliff. Shortly after, his voice was near again and we changed coarse slightly to the right. When we got near the lights at the gate, we could see large blood stains on his bright white shirt from his damaged elbow. The girls were there. I don't remember them being startled by us as much as bewildered and confused as to why we would want to be on the inside of the gate while they were on the outside. The gate was maybe 15 to 20 feet tall and they considered taking our darkened route to be as daunting. So we ended up straddling the gate....I don't remember exactly how, but I do remember getting to the outside without going back in the dark or opening the locked gate.

So Mike Azerrad went on to a career in loud music, experiencing it live, writing about it, playing, etc.

Flashback some more...to 13 years old in a remote peninsula in Virgina. I used to like to mimic things with the guitar: other instruments playing music, animals, machines, motorcycles and...the planes that used to fly over the house during the summer. I think they were crop dusters or something like that. Anyway, I used to get great low frequency feedback through the floor and with combo of volume control and the whammy bar on my Strat could mimic fade in, the wavering of the engine and the Doppler effect when the plane passed, and the fade out. When I wasn't around, my dad had quietly and thoughtfully added layers of soundproof tiles to my bedroom door and thick padding under the carpet. Even so, the livingroom below apparently needed more acoustic isolation: once my parents were trying to call me while I was playing and I couldn't here them, so they pulled the fuse and said they could still hear me playing....

Fast forward: much of my recordings are evidence of how I've often taken music from other instruments and imitated it on the louder electric guitar. But also, there's the louder version of fast and loud as in "Dangerous Ample Etude." on Restless Reckless & Wild . Ironically, I think I've always been somewhat indifferent to how loud music is. In the case before the college dean, I turned up music just so I could hear it in my dorm room while the dorm was mostly empty while a campus wide bash was just ending and friends across the hall were trying to drown out my sound. In the case in Virginia, I couldn't get the airplane sound at low volumes. In many bands with a trap set, the drummer sets the volume and other instruments need to ante. This has sometimes frustrated me because, while volume has it's place, dynamics make for much better music overall, so a little quiet now and then can go a long way.

What did you say? Uh, sorry, I can't hear you....

Copyright © 2008 Kevin Ferguson