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Black Lamb


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Archive for the 'Giles' Category

Godawful din

Where music is always amplified

January 1st, 2016


Chennai, India

All musical events here are frighteningly loud. People remember and are still amazed that when Yehudi Menuhin was in town at the Madras Festival, he forbade the use of microphones. This was simply not done. The smallest hall will amplify each performer individually, but not then mix the sound at all well, or the “sound engineer” will fiddle around with the levels endlessly during performance, never with happy results.

monkeysThe general civic tolerance for high decibel levels is amazing. I was in the Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu recently, a bastion of High Anglicanism in the southern-most part of India; villages with names like Nazareth and Bethany dot the landscape. Each has a church with a steeple trying to rise higher than the neighboring village’s, and each steeple has a set of loudspeakers. Some company has cornered the market on tapes to play through these loudspeakers to mark the hours between five a.m. and nine p.m. Just before the hour in every such village, the same cinema-inspired Tamil Christian lyric is blared, then a hugely amplified version of one of those tinny electric chiming clocks booms the hour, then there are two seconds of silence, and then a voice like one announcing train departures (loud and muddy) quoting some scripture verse. The whole experience takes no more than a minute-and-a-half, but it’s enough to blot out what ever one was previously thinking and raise the tension level for the following fifteen minutes, until the half-hour, celebrated by a single bong of the electric chime. There are ordinances against noise pollution, but no one seems to think of this as pollution.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: 13th Anniversary Issue, Giles | Link to this Entry

Author profile

December 1st, 2002

Randall Giles was a composer and music editor and educator who worked for the Episcopal Church in India. His Black Lamb column was called Letter from Madras.

Posted by: The Editors
Category: Giles | Link to this Entry


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