Monday, 7 April 2014

Please Turn Off the Music

At the risk of sounding like an old fuddy-duddy instead of a refined ex-disco queen, I think it's time to Turn Off the Music.

I mean, take today. I turn up at the pool for a quick lunchtime swim. Nothing too punishing, just forty minutes of lap time in between everything else. Are you with me? Picture Catherine in her nun's training swimmers. Yes I went to a convent high school and like everyone else did years of swimming carnivals and laps in the pool and my swimming attire has never been very hip. In fact, if Proust's first sophisticated and very chic first memory is of 'une madeleine', well, mine is of chlorine up the back of my nose.

You see, it's so very different when you go to the pool in Italy. Especially for the guys. I mean, where in Sydney I've seen blokes hop out of their cars shirtless, shoeless, and lumber down to the North Sydney Pool as though they have just rolled out of bed, in Vicenza once I swear I saw a well-trained hippo in Matching Yellow Bathing Cap and Matching Yellow Teeny Swimmers - every lap completed with a self-satisfied preening as all the old ladies rocked in his wake.

Let us rewind. I'm in my daggy cozzie, needing a wax (next week!) starting to pick up speed, and I see a guy in flippers, fancy goggles, very sleek cap, odious goatie and a set of freakin' ear plugs for music! Hello? And oh gawd he thinks I'm checking him out. And then - I looked over a few lanes - and there was another set of ear phones on another guy's head! Excuse me?

Whatever happened to the sound of water thrumming past your ears, or soft splashing as you cut your hand in the water for backstroke, or listening to your own lungs emptying as your freestyle carves along? Why would you want to miss out on that?

It's something I don't understand, having music broadcast directly into your brain. Don't get me wrong. I LOVE loud music when I drive (though not always, I do like to think) and I spent years under speakers ten times the size of me at concerts when I was young and less deaf, and I do love to dance and party and be surrounded even pummelled by sound. But I feel a little put-off when I see so many people (my offspring included) who are being drip-fed a soundtrack, whose lives are cool movies with not much of a plot.

Whatever happened to daydreaming? Looking out of a train window at the skyline? Catching the tail of an idea unexpectedly? Or the delight of listening in on somebody's conversation?

Have a look about. Isn't it astounding? People sitting on trains and buses are more remote than ever before, each on planet MusicBuzz. Or you hear a wanker yelling into his or her phone for half an hour. That's no fun. Even on the ski slopes I am amazed to see how many people are plugged into sound, with the unplugged sounds of the landscape - and the universe - ignored. How will we ever plumb our secret thoughts and notions or begin to compose our lives if we are always plugged into sound? How will the eddies of our mysterious subconscious ever spill into our thoughts as a shivering surprise?

I seriously wonder if this generation - old and young alike - are stepping away from the Self. If we are becoming more and more of a collective instead of a society of independent lively minds. Think of how many people - young 'uns especially - who have now spent years without ever listening to the dialogue that all of us have within our many selves. Weighing up the day, uncovering our deepest thoughts. How can this happen between Track One and Track Nineteen or a little Random?

Please guys. Please. Just turn off the music. Let's unplug our beautiful brains.