Sonic Assault

The other day, my wife was in the university parking lot, about to drive home. Then out of nowhere, a car pulled up two spaces away, and suddenly she could hear nothing except rap music that totally drowned out her classic easy rock music. Both her windows were closed, but those of the other car were open, and the volume of the “music” from the other car was enough literally to vibrate her solid but modest SUV.

I own a somewhat larger SUV, used primarily once for book tours and currently to carry opera props and sometimes sets, as well as for occasional trips around southwest Utah. Yet I’ve also experienced the unpleasant and definitely unwelcome sonic assault and/or or the involuntary full-body sonic massage.

We live on a fairly quiet street, but we still get the occasional sonic bombardment from so-called music, even with our well-insulated windows and walls – and our house isn’t even that close to the road, and there’s a five-foot tall, four-foot wide thick pfitzer hedge between the sidewalk and the grass.

What’s become even more prevalent is the sound of barely muffled large diesel pick-up trucks, except they’re more like monsters that tower over my standard-sized SUV, and the majority of these behemoths don’t appear to be working trucks, not with all that chrome and nary a splat of mud or so much as a dent in sight, and seldom even with any cargo.

Sound pollution is increasing everywhere in the world, and it’s not as though trucks and music have to be that loud. So why is it happening?

Studies show that human beings regard high levels of sound as a form of power, a way to dominate the space around them. Certainly, we can see this everywhere, even in politics, where demagogues from Hitler to Trump have ranted and raved at high volume and amplified that volume as much as possible.

But what it signifies to me is obnoxious boors who ought to be stuffed into a sound-proof chamber and subjected to their own noise at volumes high enough to burst their eardrums – except then they’d just increase the volume more.

9 thoughts on “Sonic Assault”

  1. Rik says:

    Funny that this post is in the questions answered section and not in the blog section.

    1. Oops! Thank you. It’s now where it belongs.

  2. Wine Guy says:

    I was next to one of the Sonic Assault Vehicles a few days ago and I couldn’t hear the sirens of the fire truck or ambulance coming up behind us.

    And why do they never blast Vivaldi, Copeland, or Verdi?

    1. Tom says:

      In the 1980’s and 1990’s: if you had been in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere Washington State you might very well have heard someone streak by blasting Verdi for sure, some Copeland with occasional Vivaldi, and a lot of Gilbert and Sullivan. Way to keep awake.

      1. Tom says:

        Blame “Sonic Assault” on Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier in 1947. Before then the word sonic was apparently mentioned in scientific circles and infrequently.

        From about the middle 1940’s the word suddenly became popular and from the late 1950’s has maintained that popularity: perhaps because of the cheap Japanese portable transistor radios in combination with Elvis followed by The Beatles morphing into Punk and Hip-Hop/Rap.

        The ‘sonic assault’ in the 21rst century might be exactly what LEM suggests, a form of in your face power of “ME”.

  3. KevinJ says:

    They’re polite and good drivers, so it’s hard to hold it against them, but the nearby motorcycle club can’t help but make a lot of noise…

  4. KTL says:

    I do recall many years ago, while living in southern CA, that there were noise ordinances on the books. And, that they were sometimes enforced. I wonder if those ordinances no longer exist in most areas of the country. The so called freedom movement would certainly object to anyone stomping on an individual’s ‘right’ to personal noisy power-projecting enjoyment.

    I can only hope the future (sometime soon please) will return to a more community centered normalcy.

  5. Matthew Newman says:

    I try to fight back but the audiobook of Adiamante I was listening to the other day stood no chance against the ludicrously bass heavy barrage from the next vehicle. The mellifluous tones of Eric Michael Summerer did sooth my frazzled nerves when the offender had passed by, aided by the excellent words he was reading.

  6. Ronald Maurer says:

    And they keep having to turn it up louder and louder as they damage their hearing more and more. The energy in those bass notes is especially damaging to the delicate parts of the ear. There’s good money to be made, selling hearing aids!

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