One man’s meat: the sound of bagpipes
Listening to a kilted piper in the Lawnmarket, just down from Edinburgh’s Castle Esplanade, venue for the Tattoo every summer, I looked up to the open windows of flats high above the street, and wondered whether the people preparing dinner in them, or settling down for the evening, were as appreciative of the piper’s music as I was.
For these few short weeks, in the evenings and at weekends, we are tourists – sightseeing visitors with an eye and an ear for the unusual and the authentic. A kilted piper standing outside a shop that sells shortbread is sufficiently unusual and colourful to attract our attention, and hold it.
Those good people in the flats above most probably see the lone piper and the music he makes in a different light, but, like the constant roar from a busy main road, or the noise of people below, it is very probably ignored for most of the time. It is usually only when you feel tired or stressed that a noise annoys.
For that is how even music is often perceived when it hasn’t been chosen and can’t be turned off – as noise. Think of the thump-thump of someone’s stereo system as their car goes by, sun roof open, letting all that noise out.
If you’re walking along minding your own business, it intrudes into your space – your domain of relative peace and security. It startles you, and for a split second it annoys you. But it quickly passes – if it doesn’t – in traffic – it annoys you more and more until you are provoked into thoughts you might otherwise consider unworthy.
Music that can sound like noise to some and a melodious tune to others is a pretty fair metaphor for a lot of things that can divide people’s tastes – music is one, food is another, enjoyment another – and behaviour yet one more.
Generally speaking, the older you get, the more intolerant you are of loud music, for instance. That’s not always true though – plant me in front of a brass band pounding out something I like, and I’m happy – subject me to the thump-thump stuff and I have to move.
The older you get, the more badly behaved people annoy you – in the crowded penalty area during a crunch match though, and you’ll catch me cheering my lads on, even though their tactics are questionable at times.
Ours has become a more multi-cultural, multi-ethnic society than was the case even just a few years ago, at least that’s how it seems to me. So what I regard as normal is threatened, or doesn’t exist anymore. If I’m going to live here into my old age, and live contentedly, I’m going to have to rethink what I consider noisy, different, or not normal.
Like those flat dwellers wishing a window shut, even though it’s hot enough to leave open, to keep out the piper’s plaintive lament, I am going to have to deal with noise and start to appreciate another man’s music.
Robert L. Fielding