Loud and Compressed

There’s something about modern pop music. Something that makes me feel little stifled, a little claustrophobic, a little tense, and a little pissed off. I’m not speaking in a figurative sense, as though some rap lyric finally got the better of me and I angrily switched the radio over to NPR in a fit of “I am SO TOO OLD for this” rage. It’s a feeling that came to me at a stop light at Dickerson and Trinity, making me wonder where all this came from and whether it’s ever going to go away. The feeling is the same one that I had while watching The Hobbit at the Hollywood 27: it felt like everything was right there in my face, making me anxious, like a first person shooter game or a cooperative play game with vertical split screen. Your peripheral vision is gone because everything is so close. Everything is bigger, faster, louder. More and more, quickly and impatiently demanding your attention.

If I hadn’t seen so many people on the internet complaining about The Hobbit’s shallow depth of field, I’d have thought I imagined the whole thing. I’d have thought it was just me, the shallow field being a side effect of shooting a movie with the intent to make cool 3D rather than a cool movie.

I can’t explain the music. In class and lessons, we were always taught that the notes you don’t play are just as important as the ones you play. I’m not so naive as to think that the work of Pitbull and Pink should subscribe to the same rules of subtlety as Mozart, but to say something like “well, that’s pop music, so whatever” is a complete cop out. It’s still music, right? There is a certain level of artistry involved in crafting a pop song, right? It’s still pretentious as fuck to imply that Mozart is somehow automatically better than Pink, right? I am a flag-waving student of the art school idea of “it’s not better, it’s just different.”

So why then does nearly every song on the radio wish to fill every possible void with SOUND, compressed SOUND, until there’s no room around the SOUND? It frustrates me, and it turns all of pop music into one note as each artist tries to yell louder, rock harder and party Bacardier than the one that came before. I have sat in traffic nervously picking at my fingers because whatever is coming through my speakers is making me anxious for no damn reason.

All of this makes me wonder if this is some kind of symptom of life in 2013. Life where we are all so inundated with everything all the time that there’s no dynamic contrast. We’re all so busy and everything’s so loud. I just wonder where it stops.

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