Friday, February 03, 2006

Mindnumbing Music

Via Opinion Journal, Doug Ramsey meditates on music's post-modern ubiquity and the virtues of silence!

As someone who writes about and plays music, I would be the last to disagree with William Congreve that music hath charms. But silence has charms, too, and it's getting hard to find. When Congreve wrote his famous line, circa 1700, people who wanted music had to make it themselves or go find it. The technological revolution in the past century changed that. Now music pursues us in the supermarket, the gas station, The Gap, the dentist's office, the elevator, even the street. That's bad news when I'm trying to think, let alone write. But it's good news when I'm on the NordicTrack; the steady beat of music makes the workout easier. And I'm not the only one who feels this way.

For most of us, physical activity is akin neither to war nor to competition. We use it to promote health, fitness and relaxation. The brain tells the body when to fight or run from danger. Exercise can help the body return the favor by freeing the brain for reflection, a mental commodity in shorter and shorter supply as music occupies every facet of our lives. A solitary run, a friendly tennis match, a few laps in the pool or a long walk can promote contemplation, but we set the mind a difficult task if we keep it saturated with rhythmic pounding. Perhaps that's worth contemplating.

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