Music is thumping out of cars, elevators, lobbies, cabs, autos and airplanes.. even the thin, tinny sound emerging from someone's ipod. But it's what writer, Milan Kundera, in his novel, Ignorance said, "Music becomes noise." It demands very little involvement from the listener, because it's there without being sought, without any effort of choice.
There was a time, not very long ago, when, apart from a live performance, the only way of listening to music was on the old short wave radios.
You had to turn the knob on the big machine, listen to static for a while and strange chwee tee whee noises till a song finally burst out.
Unless you were alone at home, listening to music was a communal activity. Not just the family, but the neighbours could hear it too.
Very few people had record players. So if you liked a song you had to see the movie again or wait till it was played again on the radio or better still, sing it yourself.
The last involved diligent and expert jotting of lyrics when the song was played or hunting for the song booklet. This also explains why every one was a bathroom singer.
Some years ago, I brought in the new millennium with a bunch of my close friends, singing our favourite songs. Everybody knew the lyrics of the old hits they had taken the trouble to memorise them.
Today when songs are played at the touch of a button, how many people can remember lyrics of songs that they've heard a thousand times?
As a kid, I recall the woman downstairs teaching Carnatic music, the family of Christian kids in the lane practising their choir singing, a lady across the street tinkling on the piano.
I also rcall a street singer passing by with an ektara and my mother (like housewives everywhere) cooking in the kitchen with music playing loudly in the next room.
And some days, kids around running into the neighbours' house and panting, "Aunty, aunty, make the radio ‘slow'.. we've got exams."
When the transistor arrived, it was bliss. You could carry it around, even to the bathroom and sing along. If someone in the building happened to be in the bath too you could even manage a duet.
Then the cassette player was invented. It was even better because you could choose what you wanted to listen to and also record what you liked from the radio or from borrowed or exchanged records and tapes.
You didn't realise that very soon your wish of being able to hear your favourites without punching the fast-forward button would come true, a CD could be programmed to skip the boring songs.
The walkman followed by the discman, iPod and the MP3 players came in, when you could compile your selection, wear your earphones or headphones and shut out the world.
If you were lazy, then you could just listen to the FM radio on your phone. But the point of music is to include.. not isolate.
But no one plays music aloud in their homes any more. The thumping noise you have to shout over in pubs and restaurants isn't really shared music.. but ‘noise' that you could absent-mindedly tap your feet to.
The RJs play hits on FM channels all the time.. but it takes away the human connection when the name of the film, composer, singer, and lyricist is not even mentioned.
Can you even recall the tune of the songs are around you all the time? Probably not unless you want to participate on a TV show.