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August 27, 2014 / 1 Elul, 5774
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Not Music To My Ears!


Kupfer-052413-Ear-Plugs

With the semi-mourning period of Sefira behind us, and the festival of Shavuot as well (as evidenced by the tightness of our clothing due to over-indulging in irresistible versions of cheesecake that is an integral component of celebrating our receipt of the Torah), our community can look forward to participating in joyous engagement parties and weddings.

Especially for people living in high-density frum communities, the weeks after Shavuot result in mailboxes bulging with simcha invitations. Many mentally groan as they realize they will have to go clothes, sheitel or gift shopping because of the myriad of simchas they will be attending. Wedding season is not a wallet-friendly parsha.

But I have figured out a way to pay for all these expenses – for without question, post Sefira and pre-Three Weeks” is a great time to buy stock in hearing aid companies!

Let me explain why. Mirroring my own experiences, a friend who recently participated in several back-to-back weddings pleaded with me to write an article about what she called the tendency of bands to play ear-shattering music at simchas.

I thought to myself, radio stations take requests for songs, why not take requests for columns?

Besides, she was “preaching to the converted.” I am not a fan of anything that is excessive and unnecessary – in particular unnecessarily loud music.

Having needed glasses for near-sightedness since I was eight years old – an unmitigated disaster for a tomboy (glasses can fall off when you are hanging upside down on a tree limb) I was at least able to console myself on my ability to hear well. (Being able to hear a twig snap as someone approaches from behind when you are playing “Capture the Flag” or hearing breathing sounds when playing “Hide and Seek” is definitely an asset.)

Hearing is the one sense I am sensitive about, and protecting it is the sensible thing to do.

I am amazed that groups playing simcha music seem to think that playing exceedingly loud music makes them sound more talented and artistic. I think the opposite is true – it can lead the listener to believe that the racket they are presenting as a song serves to hide wrong notes and other instrumental mistakes.

Or perhaps they associate deafening music with being more “with it” since excruciatingly loud music is the norm in the secular world.

To the musicians who hence believe that “more” is better – think again, because less is more in this case. When people sitting next to each other have to yell in order to have a conversation; when the person sitting inches away keeps on asking you to repeat what you just said – which usually is a request that the other guest repeat what (s) he just said – then the music is way too loud and even risky to one’s auditory health. (An article in the April/May 2013 AARP magazine states that for those suffering from presbycusis – a gradual type of hearing loss, limiting exposure to loud noises can prevent further loss.)

No doubt, the frustration of trying to talk and communicate above the din is also bad for one’s blood pressure. I have no doubt mine soars when my ears are being blasted by explosive-level sound waves.

Chances are that members of the band think they are impressing their audience with their musical abilities by equating earsplitting with “cool.” In a misguided attempt to win over fans and potential bookings, they blast their music. But their reasoning is totally off, and their efforts to obtain more business misguided. If anything, they are ruining their reputations and the likelihood of being hired by the guests present who are planning their own simchas.Kupfer-052413-Music

The majority of the attendees do not hear music – they hear uncomfortable, annoying noise. And if the baalei simcha allow this headache-inducing racket to continue unabated, then they are unwittingly ruining and undermining the integrity of their own simcha. The next day, when their guests are asked by friends, “so how was the wedding?” it is very likely they will be told how beautiful the kallah looked and how horribly loud the music was.

The only people who enjoy loud music are those who are already hearing-impaired from years of exposure to too loud music. For them, the music is at a level that they can hear well. They are like those annoying people on the subway, planes or in waiting rooms with earphones coming out of their heads. Their music is so loud that people sitting many rows away from them can hear pounding vibrations. Obviously, these future hearing aid consumers need to put the music onto the highest volume level because they can no longer hear it on a lower setting!

Unless the musicians have day jobs selling hearing aids, I can’t imagine why they play music that can damage eardrums. Not to mention that they are ruining their own hearing as well – although some may have unseen earplugs stuck in their ears at each of their gigs.

Not everybody dances as soon as the music starts up. People want to continue their schmoozing, especially since simchas tend to bring together people who have lost touch or whose paths rarely cross during their day to day activities. For many, it’s a chance to catch up on each other’s lives. And they don’t want to get hoarse doing it!

Since I take care to look my best at a simcha, I am rather annoyed at having to walk around with my fingers in my ears (and my elbows up in the air.) I find myself admiring those guests who have had the foresight to bring earplugs. I have seen this at more than one gathering but I rarely remember to do so myself. (For any young entrepreneurs out there – instead of a lemonade stand, think about selling cotton balls on the sidewalk in front of the hall.)

If the host of the simcha knows that the band will likely will play loud music – which some do in spite of his request not to (or due to a different interpretation of what loud means) – a selection of ear-protectors in the middle of each table – the kind you wear at shooting ranges – may be a more appreciated option than a floral centerpiece.

The bottom line is that music can make or break a wedding. Of course, the food and its service is also a big factor in how lovely the guests will perceive the affair to be. But the ability to enjoy the simcha and participate in dancing and socializing with friends and relatives is the key to its success. Music that is too loud is like scalding soup. It hurts. And the pain takes your focus off the simcha and on your discomfort. When a guest is in distress, the simcha is no longer a simcha, it is a tircha – a hardship one must unwillingly endure – like a root canal.

When one’s shoes are too tight, they can be removed. However, the only way to relieve oneself from destructive, painful noise/music is to actually distance yourself from it by leaving the ballroom and standing in the hallway or leaving earlier than planned. Having to do so is not fair to the friends and relatives who made the effort to come and share in the family’s joy – especially if they traveled a long distance.

Nor is it fair to the baalei simcha to have their beautiful affair prematurely emptied of participants.

Ear shattering, guest-chasing “music” at my simcha? I wouldn’t hear of it!

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