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Washington Voices

Front Porch: The loud beat goes on, and it belongs to the newest young generation

Sat., April 26, 2014

Music. It’s a soother of souls, a jiggy of jump, a feel-good moment or a timely remembrance. One song can take me back to the mop top boys from England whose music along with Elvis Presley and those who followed, heralded in a new sound.

Melodies and lyrics of beloved songs have helped me maneuver through some rough bumps in life. My brother is a musician and the beat of his drums as he practiced when we were kids was, literally, music to my ears. Today, my iPod is filled with songs from yesterday and today. And, as we all know, the beat goes on.

Wonderful as music is, I’m not sure why it’s everywhere. The saying, there’s a time and place for everything, doesn’t pertain to this realm. There’s hardly a public place to shop, drop or stop that doesn’t include recorded music overhead. Perhaps it wouldn’t feel so intrusive if it wasn’t amped up to screeching pitch. Perhaps I’m showing my age when I suggest classical or soft jazz as an alternative.

But who am I kidding. Classical, soft jazz and the like are passé. Their melodies are too easygoing, too calming. They don’t prompt customers to tap their toes and open their wallets.

A few months ago, I noticed an earsplitting shriek invading the Chase Bank building where I work in downtown Spokane. I didn’t recall music being part of the building’s ambiance before, but I definitely knew it that morning when the loud screech of Aerosmith molested my eardrums. Later, when I walked over to River Park Square for my morning latte, KC and the Sunshine Band was encouraging me to, “Do a little dance. Make a little love. Get down tonight.”

Since that musical epiphany, I’ve paid attention to the sounds that permeate the rafters of varied establishments and cause me to look up in confused wonder. The standard background noise for most malls, stores, gas stations, restaurants, restrooms, grocery stores – you name it – consists of the music produced over the past five decades. Thinking back, much of the standard soft rock chords have been replaced by the driving beat of heavy metal.

This brings me to the specialty stores that cater to the young and crank up the decibels. Loud, pulsating rock, rap and erotic music vibrate the walls. Sound waves hit hard against the body. Forget conversing with your shopping buddy or salesperson. You can’t think, can’t hear and perhaps that’s the strategy. Impulse buying is replaced with “get me out of here” buying.

Despite the pulsing walls, heady smell of musk, and gaggle of young’uns milling about, I went into such a store foolishly convinced I was still young, hip and in the know. I wasn’t. The music scraped against my ears like nails on a blackboard but I pinched my nose, acclimated as best I could and attempted to converse with my friend. Our conversation went something like this:

“Oh … this is cute!”



“You want a boot?”

Five minutes and I was gone; wallet clamped shut. But in those five minutes I realized, as the youth of today will someday realize, my hip, cool days were in the past hidden beneath a bevy of unspoken dreams, amid a belief that my generation was bolder and better than the previous one. We weren’t. It was simply our time to grow, learn and somewhere along the passing of years, the pounding beat of defiance gave way to gentle smiles of remembrance.

And the beat goes on.

Voices correspondent Sandra Babcock can be reached by email at Previous columns are available at columnists.

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