Although I have had a few articles wherein I have discussed the effects of sensory distortion on hearing, there haven’t been many. Today, I am going to delve into one kind of sensorily distorted audio stimulus, one that most young people actually find pleasing. I am talking about electrified musical instruments. In particular, I would like to focus on electric guitars and electric basses: the two most common kinds of electrical instruments.
There are two very particular traits of these instruments to consider. First of all, they are usually played at an extremely high volume. So loud that they can damage the ear drums, particularly of the musicians who play them, but also of the members of the audience. Second, there is the intense vibration, the buzzing sound that these instruments create. Musical sounds have traditionally been flowing blendable continual organic sounds, sounds that merge with one’s mind, with one’s consciousness. And with one’s surroundings, with one’s living environment. One can say that as traditional organic music merges with one’s internal environment and with one’s external environment, it provides a bridge whereby grounding is provided for one’s sense of self by one’s external world.
When traditional musical sounds have more than one source as a result of the simultaneous presentation of different musical notes – acoustic guitar and other acoustic string instruments, piano and harpsichord, a group singing harmonies, and voice and instrument combinations – there is a blending of musical sounds that can add to the sense of audio grounding. Furthermore, the range of the volume is within the capacity of the ear to capture without any resulting damage to the ear drum. This further strengthens the audio bridge created and, thus, the audio grounding.
On the other hand, the buzzing strings of the electrical instruments create defined discrete sound fragments that are incapable of merging with each other to form a mellifluous organic whole. People today like this notion of the free-floating defined discrete sound fragments from electrical musical instruments, because, although they normally wouldn’t be able to merge with it and absorb it as well as they could the more mellifluous sounds of traditional acoustic music, their brains have been reshaped by all the abrasive stimuli and the numbing vacuum stimuli that come from the devices and the screen machines of modern technological society. In other words, although they don’t feel really comfortable with the mechanical and digital audio stimuli that they encounter in their daily lives, they feel more comfortable with it at present than they do the organic audio stimuli, which, as mammals, they were constructed to receive.
This level of comfort is also true with regard to the volume of the sound. People in modern technological society have simply gotten used to the loud noise of blenders, electric razors, vacuum cleaners, construction equipment, leaf blowers and traffic jams. And they are used to the almost total silence of the inner space of modern libraries and high-rise apartments. This is what I mean by feeling comfortable with. These are the kinds of sounds with which people in modern technological society are familiar. So rather than focus on the negative damaging qualities of modern sounds, people today try to refigure them into formats whereby they can be actively appreciated. In particular, the abrasive machine noises act as a model for the buzzing sounds created by electric guitars and electric basses. This is a perfect example of the old saying, when one has lemons, make an effort to turn them into lemonade.
Nevertheless, in spite of the attempt by people today to turn lemons into lemonade, the negative psychological effects and physical effects will always manifest themselves. The obvious physical effect is partial deafness. The less obvious psychological effect is becoming socially isolated as a result of the partial deafness. The paradox is that the overstimulation from the tension-pocket sounds of the abrasive technological noises found in electric guitars and electric basses end up pushing people into the experiential vacuum of the understimulation of partial deafness and social isolation. Music that uses electric guitars and basses is most of the time ostensibly very social dance music. How ironic that the deafening sounds that it creates end up making it more difficult for people to socially mingle, communicate and bond with one another. The ramifications of this situation spread into many different areas of life. Young people can gradually sink into partial deafness without really being aware that it is happening. If you can’t hear well, it becomes difficult to hear what your teachers and your professors are saying to you in class. That is going to affect school work. It also becomes difficult to hear what your parents are saying to you, which is going to affect family harmony. As a person gets older, this partial deafness can affect how smoothly a company is running. Or how smoothly a government is running. Partial deafness leads to a loss of audio grounding, a kind of audio numbness which leads to sometimes dangerous instability inside one’s head as well as in the larger world beyond.