Music as a weapon

March 13, 2008


I remember living in slums (now expensive condos) in Boston while going to the New England Conservatory. My apartment building shared an alley with drug dealers and prostitutes, so we heard a LOT of noise in those days. The second day I lived there the abandoned place across the street where many of those people lived burned, and five of them died. Welcome to Boston, Roger. Rent was $75 a week. There was a woman who always sat on the front steps next door and greeted us as we left or came home “bl*job-fa-bucks.” She had her top and bottom front teeth missing. Ah culture!

It wasn’t that long ago that those neighbors carried around enormous cassette machines, then called “ghetto blasters” — a name that has faded away but said what it did. A guy was increasingly cool depending on how loud and obnoxious his boom box (the new term) was. Eventually they put signs on buses banning them.

At any rate, one night at 2:30 in the morning a pimp and one of his girls started fighting. They turned up Donna Summers’ latest album beyond loud. Everyone was sticking their head out windows saying SHUT UP! and KNOCK IT OFF to no avail. Nerd music major Roger Bourland decides to fight fire with fire. I found my Morton Subotnick TOUCH album, put the speakers in my window and cranked it. It didn’t work. It just made my neighbors crankier.

A few years before that, we had some neighbors over for dinner. And they wouldn’t go home. Yawning, stretching, looking at the clock or referring to that early music theory class tomorrow didn’t work. But mentioning music gave me an idea of how to get rid of them. I put on Arnold Schoenberg’s PIERROT LUNAIRE, guaranteed to send a novice shrieking to the door. It worked!, Ok it took three songs in, but it worked.


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