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The dynamic range of a piece (how big the change from the softest to the loudest part) varies greatly by genre.

Those pieces with the biggest range seem to be mostly in the western classical orchestral tradition. In a quite concert hall the base noise level might be 60 db and the peaks of the performance might be 110 db for brief moments. So the range of the piece might be 40 db (the orchestra has to play louder than the ambient sound to be heard at all). Recently some pieces have gotten so loud that EU officials have stepped in since they are in violation of hearing protection regulations.

Rock concerts have a much smaller dynamic range, perhaps between 10-20 db. Recorded music and broadcast music is artificially compressed so that it never gets as soft as the original. This is done so that the music can "punch through" the surrounding noise especially on radio where the loud stations tend to attract more listeners and for those driving in autos.

When full range CD's were first released people complained because if they made them loud enough to hear the quiet parts then they were too loud at the climaxes. Some players and receivers now have options to compress the sound for late night listening.

The rise of continually loud pop music and the use of headphones for listening has led to widespread hearing loss especially among young people. This is now a major public health issue, but doesn't get much attention. Warnings on headphones and MP3 players don't change behavior.

Trying to find a quite place in the modern world is difficult and I think many people are unable to cope with this situation, they just need to be surrounded by sound and activity. Perhaps the rise of email, IM and texting indicates that people are afraid to even be alone with their thoughts...

[As I'm writing this the gardening crew up the street is using a variety of gas powered lawn equipment and shattering the quiet of the morning. The situation had gotten so bad that my village put a ban in against gas blowers from November to April. Rakes are a thing of the past.]

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Wed May 7th, 2008 at 08:38:18 AM EST

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