I crave silence but loud music blares from all over the house

20 Nov 2017

My four adult children all have different musical tastes. I know this because they still live at home and play music loudly and constantly, so that, as I progress through rooms, up and down the stairs, I hear eclectic blasts of soul, world music, jazz and rap.

My twins, Megan and Lily, like Keaton Henson, Leonard Cohen and freak-folk band CocoRosie. Jake is into soul, Afrobeat and spiritual jazz (whatever that is), and Zac prefers electronic and grime. I spend my days and nights complaining that their music is too loud. At their age, I was never considered cool, and now I have become a “boring old mum”. None of them actually says the words. They don’t have to; I see it in their eyes. But at least they comply, even if grudgingly, with my plea to, “Please, TURN IT DOWN!”

I have come to crave silence. On the rare occasions I have the house to myself, I don’t even put the radio on because the lack of noise is exquisite. I don’t mind music while driving. One benefit of my children’s musical tastes is that I have discovered musicians and bands that I would otherwise never have heard of, and the kids make me mix CDs that I play in the car, where I have control of the volume.

Jake is the musician of the family. He plays piano and guitar, loudly, with passion and enthusiasm. But when I get home, tired and hungry, I don’t want to walk into a kitchen ringing with the sounds of his latest jazz composition. I want complete silence, or perhaps to listen to a programme on BBC Radio 4 turned down low.

“You don’t appreciate me,” Jake sighs, shutting the piano lid and loping upstairs. Five minutes later, the sound of Hugh Masekalacomes from above.

It is mid-afternoon on a sunny day when I round the corner of our street and hear the sound of a piano and Jake’s distinctive singing. I look up and am horrified to see that he is in his bedroom with the window open, being creative to his heart’s content. I break into a jog, hurry into the house and dash up several flights to burst into his room, panting. “Be quiet!” I yell. “The whole street can hear you!”

“Mum, chill. They’re probably enjoying it,” he says. “It’s a gift to the world, sharing live music.”

“Well, stop sharing,” I tell him. “Nobody likes it. It’s antisocial.”

“You need to relax,” he says.

When I complain to Ed, my husband, he says: “He really does think he’s doing everyone a favour. In fact, I remember doing the same one summer in 1980-something, blasting Wham! into the street, believing everyone would love it as much as me.”

London, of course, is full of noise pollution. Part of city living is putting up with continual sound – but when, several evenings later, the air is ripped apart by the noise of amplified electric guitars, I sit up in shock. This time it is not my children. I would never let them play anything that loud. I stare down the road. Apparently, a live rock gig has abandoned the O2 and decamped to a flat in our street. After the long guitar intro, there is a wailing voice and drums. More guitar. I slam our window shut and draw the curtains.

The next day, I see a group of twentysomethings coming out of the flat. With horror, I realise that they have come to live a few doors down. They are close to the age of my children, but I am not their mother, so have no power over the volume of their music.

It happens again. Our windows rattle. “It is kind of loud,” even Jake admits. I ring the buzzer to the flat and tell the boy who answers the door that I would love it if they could keep the noise down a bit. I can see from his expression that he thinks I should chill; I read pity in his eyes. I’m obviously a sad case, too ancient to appreciate good music.

There is only one solution, I think, and that is to ask Jake to go next time. They can’t ignore him, because they won’t mistake him for an old bore. The only problem is, they will probably mistake him for a new band member.


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