The Noise Around Us


“There is music everywhere.
This is what strikes me most about my first few minutes walking about the flying city of Columbia in Irrational Games’s upcoming BioShock Infinite”
—.From Erik Kain’s review of BioShock Infinite in Forbes magazine, Dec. 07, 2012.

It’s hard to be different, an outsider, and still feel part of a group. Living in Arizona, and having a different view on immigration and, well, a lot of other issues, I have learned to keep my opinions to myself. After all, if the dentist has sharp instruments in your mouth and is on a rant, you don’t want to disagree too strenuously.

There’s such a conflict rising in me when I hear someone saying something I don’t agree with, particularly if it’s mean. I think the quote attributed to Edmund Burke, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing,” or the William Butler Yeats quote, “The  best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” It’s from the poem The Second Coming.


This is how I felt.

So it was that I felt really conflicted in a recent class, when one of the participants, without asking, turned on her iPad and began to play music loud enough for all to hear. She insisted she had to have music to work. Unfortunately, I can’t work if music is playing. Yes, I know this is odd. We are surrounded by music. My bank has a braying TV on all day, so does every doctor’s office, airport, restaurant, car repair shop, sports equipment shop, pet store and harware store. Still, my studio is quiet. For me, being grounded and in the moment means being quiet so I can hear what I’m thinking.

In class, I asked, somewhat fearfully, if we could work without music. Two or three class members said they liked music. There was no vote, and about 12 class members, so the three who spoke up weren’t a majority. But no one agreed with me. So the music stayed. There was no offer of compromise. No agreement that when the music-needer went to lunch, she could turn off her iPad. The woman at the table in front of me began to sing with the music. I’m sure she was all heart, but she was also off-key. For three days, it did not change.

And so I sat at my table, trying to focus. I had paid a full fee to be in the class.

And this is what it sounded like (just to me).

And this is what it sounded like (just to me).

Did I have a right to ask the music-needer to put on earphones? I lacked the nerve. So I put mine on and listened to white noise, which helped me focus, but I stayed unhappy.

I had to do a lot of self-management, and felt alone and disconnected. Not one person suggested that we alternate or that a vote be taken. When I tried to turn down the sound when music-needer went to lunch, she came back, turned it back up, and asked the women who agreed with her if they wanted it on at lunch. Yep, they did. Still, only three.

Finally, I had to settle. I was not going to get a ruling from the instructor, who had been present for the conversations. I was not going to get a break from music-needer. So I went back to my earphones and did what I usually do when I am distracted and unheard: reviewed goals. Set priorities.  I’d come to learn the technique, to create a piece with that technique and to get feedback. That part was happening. So my goals were being met. Past that, things were not going to go my way, but my top priority was met. I sucked it up.

I’m still not sure if I should have done more. I don’t know what I could have done. A vote might have clarified things, but it would have had to be called by the instructor. I was aware that I wasn’t in charge, and wasn’t getting support. Past that, I was also not getting what I needed to work in class.

What are the rights of people who prefer silence? Or who prefer music? Where is the line between getting your way and bullying? When class participants disagree, is compromise possible?

What would you have done?

Quinn McDonald is looking for answers, and trying to be fair.


84 thoughts on “The Noise Around Us

  1. A famous art and craft center was sued by a student because music was played during class without consent of all. The student paid a lot for the workshop not including travel, lodging and time off the job. An announcement is made before the start of classes now about this issue.

    I battle this problem continually. Went all the way to Maine at my own expense to work in an open studio. Another artist there talked for three days straight. I just had to leave the studio.
    My husband refuses to stay at a restaurant where they play his favorite music as muzak.

    I’ll admit to being ultra sensitive, but I think in this age of ipods there is no excuse for this rude behavior. I’ve found ear plugs and noise canceling headphones help, but this problem is so pervasive it is hard to battle it everywhere, every time. I’m surprised the teacher didn’t deal with this, but giving her the benefit of the doubt I do think you should talk to her. Good to have a plan for next time. And there will be a next time.

    • Sued? Wow. That’s both sad and scary. What always surprises me is that if you want music, you can listen to it with headphones, but playing it for all to hear doesn’t give any options. In my own classes, I always start by asking for three things: 1. Put your weapons in your car (hey, it’s Arizona) 2. No music, singing, or yoga practice in class (most of my classrooms are small, and I had one student trip over a yoga-stretching student more than once). 3. If you feel uncomfortable, unheard, or scared, come talk to me. I know creative work can sometimes really unleash a lot of fear.

      To her great credit, the instructor contacted me and apologized. She had been working and had not been as aware of the incident as I had thought. And while I still don’t know the exact line (I think it moves) between thinking that I paid for the class and need my needs met and thinking I need to be just like everyone else and not ask for anything special, I did learn that I need to speak to the instructor and get a decision made.

  2. Quinn, I “get” this. I often feel like I’m the only person in a room or in a situation that is sensitive to something. When I was younger I felt like there was something wrong with me, rather than seeing that the other person was being insensitive. The music woman’s boorish behaviour makes me cringe. I’m thinking that if you had talked to the teacher nothing would have changed {I wonder if there could have been a compromise, with part of the days with/without music} but perhaps you would have the option now for a partial refund. I wonder why the teacher didn’t take action – didn’t even ask if the music was OK with everyone? I’ve been to meetings where the lunch menu was supposed to be one thing and was changed by vote at the meeting to something I could not eat. It feels like someone changed the rules in the middle of the game. I’m sorry you had this experience, Quinn. {hugs}

    • The instructor was in the room when I made the request for no music. Some instructors (often those with teenage children) want the class participants to settle their differences. I don’t agree with this–because I’m an instructor, but at that moment, not an instructor. I asked for the music to be turned down at lunch. Music-needer didn’t do that, either. So, you are right, no compromise. Asking for a partial refund now, would involve both the location and the instructor and feels passive-aggressive to me. I should have acted *during* class. Talked to the instructor alone. Asked for help. I didn’t do it out of fear of being “different” or sounding spoiled or whiny. I felt shame at being different, but as many have pointed out, I shouldn’t have.

      • Quinn, reading your response to gypsy999 just now I got a glimmer that when you chose to go no further with your requests for no music – even if it felt like it was out of shame or fear – perhaps that was the wisest self-preservation move. Based on your reading of the actions and words of the music player (and posse) as well as the instructor, it seems that pushing for your preferences might not have done anything but incite direct bad vibes, which then could have completely taken away the bigger goal you sought of having as fulfilling a workshop as possible. At least you had coping means which let you remain observant but not completely subservient to the noise. Yes, there are things you might choose to do differently, (especially with the ideas from this warmhearted crowd!) but back then in that time and place, you went for lowkey engagement and maximum personal creativity and learning as best as you could.

        • It’s hard for me to separate what I can ask for and what is whining. I was raised not to call attention to myself or my needs. The best part of this is that the instructor has contacted me, apologized and said she didn’t realize it was a problem for me. What I took for “not getting involved” was a lot more her not being fully aware what was going on. She said that I should always speak up to the instructor (especially in her class) and I was impressed that she would have contacted me. As an instructor myself (as you are) I also didn’t want to hijack her authority by continuing to ask after I thought a decision had been made.

          Seriously, the reason I discussed the issue at all is that the readers and commentors have great suggestions and excellent ideas. And I’m always willing to learn more. And laugh with them, too.

  3. How aggravating to find yourself in this situation. Without guidance in the course materials, everybody can assume their preferences would be honored. It is certainly common courtesy to check with others if your music, or toe tapping, or inspirational dancing in the aisle is distracting to your neighbors, and abide by their wishes as much as possible. But not everybody has the forethought or desire to do this.

    I think if I had found myself in this situation I would have drawn the instructor directly into the discussion by asking her right there in the class if she has any class policy concerning music or how she would suggest that the class work together to provide an environment conducive to every one’s working style. If she couldn’t resolve this, I would have broadened my request to the rest of the class and asked for anyone (everyone) to give suggestions for how we could work together in a way supported all of us.

    And, in the end, if nobody else in the class wished to get involved I would have done as you did and provide for myself the best environment I could given the circumstances. Then I would have focused on why I was here and gotten on with it. I’m so glad for you that even in uncomfortable circumstances you were able to do good work.

    • I wish I had had the foresight to stop the class and make sure the instructor got involved. That would have been my best bet. I am going through all these suggestions and getting ready for another time–this won’t be the last time, I’m sure. Thanks for your reasoned response. Because, yes, I would also object to people singing out loud or inspirational dancing as well.

  4. I¨m a big fan of facts and slooooow pronouncing syllable by syllable.
    *i´m on this class
    *you are on this class
    *i work in silence
    *you work with music
    -Look at teacher.-
    What´s the solution so we can BOTH get what we want in this class?

  5. The instructor was totally negligent in letting this situation get away from her – no leadership whatever. In classes with really classy instructors they have asked if music was wanted and, if so, what kind of music. In the situation you described I would have pulled the instructor aside and had a word. Or two. Because I would have felt ripped off and taken advantage of in that situation by the music-needer. Jeez, you’d think creative types might be a little more considerate, but noooooooo…………this is why I prefer cats to humans in most situations.

  6. Looks like you’ve already gotten tons of feedback, but I’ll add my two cents. I too have been in art and writing workshops where the debate about music ensued. As I see it, if you had asked the instructor to ask the music lovers to put in earphones, and she didn’t/wouldn’t, I would have asked for a refund. Blatant disrespect if you ask me. I’m curious if you feel you’ll take another class from this instructor again.

    • The instructor has contacted me, and not only apologized, but explained that she was distracted and didn’t realize the issue hadn’t been resolved. I would absolutely take another class from the instructor (even before the contact) because she teaches an excellent class with a really good mix of personal help and group instruction. I would, however, ask how she would handle the music-needers and silence-needers. After giving this a lot of thought, I don’t think a vote is the answer. Music lovers can listen through earphones. Silence lovers can’t play silence. They have to listen to something louder to block the public music.

  7. No one has a right to play music if it disturbs anyone else, especially in a paid for class. Period. The instructor was negligent. Maybe she didn’t know what to do, either.

    I would have talked to the instructor privately at the next break, explained my difficulty working with sound, that I was finding it difficult to concentrate, that I was losing the benefit of the class and feeling really bad about that, and that I was hoping she could help me. If she seemed nonplussed, I would offer whatever solutions I thought were appropriate and ask what she thought would be best and fairest to everyone.

  8. I can’t concentrate when my colleagues are having, sometimes necessary, work related discussions. If they go on too long I ask for them to use the side room and I do the same for them – if it’s easier for me to move and leave them to it, I do. It’s just good manners not to disturb others. I do keep earplugs so I can play quiet classical music for those times when there’s no choice about leaving the office – we’ve discussed the issue quite openly and acknowledge each others needs to discuss our work or have quiet to concentrate and accept the limitations of the environment. Occasionally, if I have a mass of paperwork to do, I work from home where the white noise is the sound of the surf.

    I even ask for loud music to be turned down in small shops . . . if they don’t I leave.

    A conversation with the facilitator would have been the only other thing that I might do. I’m used to the sound of the saw on the branch behind me when I get out on a limb but sometimes, I’d like company – I’m sure you’d be it Quinn.

    The woman was just rude and/or ignorant.

    • “I’m used to the sound of teh saw on the branch behind me when I get on a limb.” OMG, that is a wonderful image! And I think I need to learn to tactfully speak up. Kate Colgan gave a great example that didn’t sound needy or pushy.

      • The most disturbing thing is that the sound of the saw is often created by the silence of the grumblers who agree but are unwilling to speak up. Been there (on the limb), done that, wore out the T-shirt but still use my tree climbing and boat rocking skills when it’s a matter of equity . . . especially for those who can’t speak for them selves.

  9. Like smoking, anything that affects the whole group is not an individual’s sole right. The instructor should have stopped it but she probably thought that if she didn’t get any strenuous objections that it wasn’t a big deal. The student was rude and wrong.

    • The instructor has contacted me and apologized. She didn’t see the whole problem. And, as I have learned from this, I should have spoken up more than just asked “do we have to listen to music?”

    • I was thinking of smoking exactly. The music lover and the smoker have a CHOICE – earplugs or walk outside – the “victims” do not. If they refuse, they are being selfish and I don’t care IF they think I whine or if they feel persecuted. (I hear that from smokers a lot)

      • Smoking was banned as a health issue, music isn’t, so I don’t see it the same way. Although, as someone pointed out, in the early days of concern about smoking, the smokers didn’t care about health issues as much as their rights. And yes, I was a smoker.

  10. Sounds to me like you have ample “ammunition” for a great personal Journal Page to let out all your feelings. The others’ posts had plenty of key words to use if you couldn’t come up with enough yourself & ohhh the colors to use! Feel for your experience — now focus it into your Art. Sincerely Sent Jone

  11. I wasn’t even in the class and I’m infuriated!

    I would have spoken with the instructor (in private or not) and asked her to do something about it. If one person is disturbed by the music, then it should have been turned off or the other person should have put earphones in. People don’t have the same taste in music and unless it was announced that there would be music in the class, you should not have been subjected to it. You paid a hefty fee for the workshop and honestly, if the instructor didn’t want to get involved, she should refund your fee (but you would still be out time, trouble and other expenses).

    Personally, I am extremely sensitive to “noise pollution”, e.g. loud (and even not so loud) commercials, music, singing, etc. Concentrating so intently during a workshop often gives me the start of a migraine, so music would have only added to this.

    Would someone in a classroom lecture turn music on because it helps him or her concentrate? Would someone tapping his or her pencil on the tabletop the entire time distract anyone?

    Wish I had been at the workshop because I would have definitely spoken up but we both know I can be confrontational, LOL, (learned this from my many years in property management).

    At this point, I would contact the instructor and explain how distracting the music was for you. She should have insisted the person wear earphones and she cannot do that in the future if she doesn’t know what a problem it is for someone. In my opinion, she owes you a refund for the class. I would also contact the center where the workshop was conducted and tell them about the experience. They may be the ones to step to the plate and refund your fee. That’s the very least you deserve!

  12. I am going to have to fall into the line of bullying. Personal choice is just th\at..personal..not group choice or factors. If one wishes to listen to music while doing their work it is their choice not becoming the choice that others must also bear or make their choice. At work where we are paid, we can choose to listen to music, books on cd, etc. But we must use headphones, because it is our choice. When we pay for a class, a program, anything..we choose to do the subject at hand and know there are certain guidelines to be adapted to. When I sew, design, I need white noise. A simple presence. So I might open a window or turn on a fan just to create the energy of lifer, movement about me. Yet if I have a student and must conduct the lesson in their manner and of course tailoring it soi education and instruction is happening..guidelines.
    It should have been taken to a vote. The person who decided everyone would just have to “understand” her need for music was a bully..self centered and not at anytime considerate of others about her, in this space of this world we all occupy.
    The instructor should have had a little more uumph about them and insisted that she put on headphones and have consideration of others and this was not just her little world…
    In a world were it is impossible to be politically correct and what is it anyway…we have stepped farther into the dangerous shores of exiting out of all interactions because we might have to have a few words with another…a confrontation. Which when one speaks with grace it is not an attack. Why have we become a society that is so careless with each other? Why do we think our world is the “one”? In our silence and backward glances we give others no ability to understand, work with others who are vastly different than ourselves(which is not a bad thing). And in doing so we exit out of life, do no self care which makes us near impossible to do care, consideration grace of others.

    • Well said. Thank you. I have decided (after some thought) that a vote isn’t the answer. You can leave just under half the class, who paid for the instruction, unhappy. In my classes I explain that if you need music, you can use earphones. But the ones who need quiet can’t get it by listening to something else loud enough to block out the music. In my classes, those who want music use earphones. We can play music during breaks and lunch, but not during class.

  13. The music-needer was a bully who thinks her needs are more important than anyone else’s, so she feels entitled to get what she wants by whatever means necessary, including intimidation. And by bullying you, she intimidated any other silence-needers into silence. The few who agreed to the music may have liked the music, or they may have been intimidated, too.

    The instructor was either unaware of what was happening in her classroom or unable to handle it. Both are bad qualities in a teacher. No student should be allowed to behave in a way that is harmful to learning for others in the class. As a teacher, I would have given the music bully a choice of turning off the music or putting on headphones. But for a teacher who finds herself in a student role, it’s harder. You know you are not in charge, and you don’t want to overstep because you know how that feels from the teacher’s perspective.

    You did exactly what you should have done, but others didn’t and it negatively affected your experience in the class. I would not have handled it as well, I would have steamed in my seat until I had a chance to talk to the instructor about it privately. But as she didn’t seem willing or able to do anything about it, I would not have returned for the remaining days of class, and I would have given up my primary goal because I would not have been calm enough to remember what that goal was.

    The thing is, I’m sure you were not the only one who would have preferred no music, that was probably the preference of everyone who remained silent. Which goes right back to the Edmund Burke quote. We all need to learn to speak up for what is right. I think if you had raised the question, I would have agreed, but raising the question would have taken more courage than I would have had in your place. I would have felt like I was right back in 7th grade.

    • Yeah, I was right back in 7th grade. And I wanted to leave. But I wanted the lesson more. Much of what you say is right on target. I have heard from the instructor, who apologized and was doing some work and missed the importance. I should have spoken to her personally. I have that problem balancing expressing myself as is my right and sounding needy. But I’ve learnd a lot from your answer and the others.

  14. Q;
    I am struck by your resilience and resourcefulness.You did what you needed to to get through the class and meet your goals, if not your needs. There is an expression from my military days: Adapt, Improvise, Overcome. you seem to have managed all three even though the situation was not optimal for your learning.

    Curiousity: How did you happen to have white noise with you to play?

    • I have several types of non-music on my iPhone to listen to when I am in a public place and working. Coffee shop conversations are fascinating to me, but if I have to get work done, I need to tune them out. Same in libraries (where people talk and are no longer hushed), client lobbies, and airports. Occasionally, I also play the white noise or Buddhist chants when I’m walking in the morning because it keeps my Inner Critic busy and I can keep my mind on meditation more easily. I know many people would not think that is meditation, but when the inner critic is quiet and I can stay with my breathing, it works for me.

  15. And….there you are. All great solutions. Like you, Quinn I would have sucked it up and stayed just because of the expense and time spent. I might have spoken privately with the instructor as well.
    The thing about music that likens this to smoking is that it infringes on others. It has nothing to do with health. Most of us enjoy music but we enjoy our own genre preference. I might have been able to get through something like some soft jazz but never hip hop. So any music would have been an infringement in a class full of differing opinions about what was acceptable. It should have remained quiet.
    It’s not too late to give feedback to the instructor. I’m sure you will not choose another class with this particular teacher, perhaps even with assurances that she/he will keep your feedback in mind.
    Personally I like music while I work. Not just for the sake of music though. I have tinitus. Probably from years of packing apples and pears into boxes while the machines around me clattered and banged. Music quiets the noise in my head to a bearable state and helps me focus on something besides that drilling ring I have to live with. I might have brought my own music to class but I would have used headphones. And despite my own personal preferences I would have spoken up when you requested no music. It should not have been a majority vote. The instructor should have told the music lover that certainly she could listen to music as long as she brought earphones and did it so privately.
    I suspect this will be a lesson you won’t soon forget.

  16. I live with a bunch of teens and young adults who also “need” music surrounding them constantly. I tell them as I would have told the person in your class: this is why earphones were invented. You get your music and I get to not hear it. We both win.

    I too dislike confrontation, but I have learned in my old age that not standing up for myself feels worse than not causing a scene. I would have caused a scene here. Your money was as good as hers and you were as entitled (gotta love the proper use of that particular word) to be there as she was. Since her music was infringing on your space, and since she could use ear phones to acoieve her goal without stomping all over you, the only proper course of action was for the instructor to insist that she do so. Absent that assurance from the instructor, I would have been demanding my money back.

    And being a grumpy old woman, I would also be complaining to whomever sponsored the course.

  17. Quinn… Thanks so much for sharing a real life dilemma with us. I connected immediately with your story.Often, I can’t begin to imagine how insensitive people are to the others around them. Being hyper-sensitive can be painful and lonely, but also works to bring great joy from the littlest things in life… like finding my first yellow mariposa lily in 9 years 😉

    • You found a yellow mariposa lilly? Wow! I am so thrilled for you! I was brought up in a different time, when being polite was perhaps too much emphasized. Still, it’s what I have to deal with.

  18. I’ve researched this! Sound pollution DOES affect our health! Stress = hormonal changes, fight, flight or freeze behavior, and impaired ability to concentrate/cognate leading to lack of learning – on and on. I admire you taking the high road when you saw you would not have your preferred creating environment, but were going to be forced to participate in someone else’s, (And I steam when i think how they left it on even at lunch and turned it up!!!) Anyhow, the smoking analogy is TRUE! Remember how hard it was to protest cigarette smoke not all that long ago? We needed help convincing the addicted and insensitive that their behaviors were detrimental to others.

    The community college I volunteer at has abominable acoustics in their new art classrooms. They are huge warehouse rooms, high-ceilinged and VERY echo-y. It’s hard to hear the person next to you or an instructor – unless they yell – but strangely, whispered conversations across the cavernous space come in loud and clear, as does paper rustling and water running. That lead me to this TED talk about good sounc design.

    With the range of generations in the ceramics classes, musical/sound preferences are huge! Finding the right soundtrack for the work at hand for all just never happens. It might be world beat, oldies, reggae, Patsy Cline, classical: no matter…someone will be offended! The youthful speak up and yelp as music is an extension of their souls! Those of us who pick our battles, well….it varies. Instructors will play DJ or not and many many many people just wear headphones and listen to what they prefer, not thinking a thing of it.

    That is an ongoing situation. Yours was temporary – so how vested would you be in digging in to defend your preferences? – and you and probably several others you were not aware of were completely highjacked by the sound bullies. A whole other issue in which the instructor was complicit by her non-participation.

    You hit a nerve of mine Quinn! I have a LOT more to say on this subject, but for now just want to drive home the point that the bullying you endured WAS a health issue on many levels. I do hope you write the instructor and the class organizers.

    And treasure your lovely silent studio all that more.

  19. spineless instructor., ASK FOR A VOTE? are you the leader of the class or not? when i teach, I mention in the introductory email I send to folks.. no music…but then, these days it is all about ME, ME. ME.. they do not give a tinker’s cuss about anyone else. all these center of the universe people

  20. I totally agree with you that the instructor needed to step in and make it a non-music environment. Why should there have to have been a comprise? Even if just one person objected to the music, it should have been stopped. You paid your money and were entitled to have a learning environment that suited you!

    Sent from my Hope Pad!

  21. Oh, the look on that baby’s face–those big eyes! 🙂 It puzzled me that the instructor didn’t say to that (rude) woman, straight off, “You’re welcome to listen to music if you find it conducive to creating, but please use earphones”—(and music is such a personal thing!) I am a quiet person, very peaceful, and so I tend to avoid conflict unless someone or something is being hurt and then I am an iron fist in a velvet glove. I believe I would have sucked it up, too, and tried to use it as a personal challenge to create despite, but I would probably have written a letter to the instructor, diplomatically and kindly explaining that to many people the music could just be a distraction and much the same as a smoker lighting up in a group of non-smokers. Just because a few people may smoke with that person doesn’t mean the rest of the people–or even one!–should have to be subjected to it. As a creative person herself, she should be aware that the process is personal and the group enviroment should be neutral ground so each person can create their own microcosm.

  22. another thought..was this a class comprised of all women?
    what do you think the dynamic would have been if it was one of mixed genders or all men?

  23. What in the world is going on??!! I was taught that my rights end at the other person’s nose! Are people taught any manners or has bullying and rudeness won the battle? I would have spoken to the instructor, excused myself from the class, gone to the person in charge and said I want this changed- when we sit back and steam, we encourage the behavior and people NEVER learn to be decent to others.
    I am just exhausted with rudeness and self entitlement. Could this be the problem in the world today, everyone thinks they are entitled to ignore the rights of everyone else. Well, civilized people must learn to ACT civilized, and if they haven’t learned it yet, someone has to help them learn it! Please, Quinn, I’m not criticizing your indecision, I’m just tired of rude behavior and the acceptence of bullying. Be sure, you were right in your thinking, now be more proactive and don’t let the turkeys get you down!!

  24. Piss-poor class management. Agree that you might have asked in an aside for better resolution–say, the music lovers could’ve sat together away from the others and kept the voume down. Ithink silence or very quiet music should be the default in any learning setting unless everyone agrees otherwise. Sorry your three days were spent feeling dismissed. I guarantee you that others felt as you did but didn’t want to take on the bully. I’d’ve done it for you if were there! xox

    • I so agree. At the car dealership (repair department), at the doctor’s office, at the gym…..TVs blaring. At the dentist, commercial radio stations blaring (complete with commercials). Seriously, can’t we live without this visual and noise pollution for a few moments, people? At the doctor’s office it’s all medical infomercials and you can’t turn it off!! A few months ago I was at a community noted for its outdoor activities….one morning I went to the lake to enjoy the boardwalk and what do I find in this beautiful nature area but speakers mounted on poles blaring a commercial radio station!! People: we’re on this lake to enjoy nature. You know, birdsong, water lapping at the dock, etc. – why do we need speakers blaring????? I couldn’t wait to get away from there. Sometimes I think the whole world has gone nuts.

      • It’s true. We seem to hate ourselves so much, we can’t keep in touch with ourselves or nature. It’s sad. I was pumping gas the other day, and the pump began to speak to me. It took me a while to realize it was motion activated TV at the gas pump!

      • Yes, I agree. I picked up lunch at a restaurant yesterday and noticed that even if they didn’t have music playing, the “warehouse” style that’s been trendy these last few years turns the place acoustically into one big murmur of conversation. And then it dawned on me that the effect was probably intentional.

  25. The instructor is at fault at here for not taking charge of this situation. Anytime I have been in a class where someone is listening to music they always do it with headphones! I am aghast that she had the nerve to play the music without them. In this day and age to intrude on the concentration of others with their music is just unacceptable and unnecessary. I realize it is now after the fact but I would not go quietly about this. You paid a lot of money, I know these classes do not come cheaply! I would speak up to the instructor. Don’t wait too long.
    That must have been horrible. I am sorry you had to deal with such nonsense at a class you were so looking forward to.

  26. PS – I was working in a London bookshop one day when a person walked into the shop speaking loudly into a mobile. It became clear she’d come into the shop to get away from the road traffic……not to make a purchase…… She was speaking in Swedish (I’m Swedish by birth) & suddenly asked the person on the phone what the time was…….. I quickly answered in Swedish……….. & went on with my work as she left the shop.
    Paula (PEP)

  27. Not sure what I would have done. I dislike confrontation but have a streak in me that acts before I think……. & that can get me into trouble. I was so cross when a couple were shouting & arguing at the bus terminal…….. I almost said something but my husband cautioned me…….. I understood why for either drugs or drink were involved & the person would not have behaved rationally…..I’d probably have ended up being a punch bag. I too prefer quiet when working on anything artistic. I think you were wise in your handling but it’s disappointing that the instructor didn’t take charge.
    Paula (PEP)

  28. i am also one who needs quiet to work. find noise/music sets up conflicting aspects in my brain. as in the first comment, i would consider it the same as if she lit a cigarette.
    i read this post on my kindle, am getting ready for the first outdoor show of this year, and your post is running through my mind.
    i also understand about being different with different views of the world around me. i think that is why we are artists.
    i don;t think i would have sat and let the instructor take no action
    was this class sponsered by a store, an orgainization or a private individual?

    i would have talked with her, outside of class, to see what could be arranged to solve the situation…either find a place for me to work quietly or ask the woman to use earphones, comparing the noise to smoking.

    and as i processed your experience, i wonder how much of the little girl that sits inside all of us, was feeling – invisible, not worthy, and that led onto the sense of feeling like a victim…
    i think there were more lessons here than just what the class was about….
    the universe does provide lessons for us…and ones we are not sometimes expecting
    will be thinking about this while i am on the road today

  29. Three ideas:
    1. Replace “music” with “smoking”…same issue, right?
    2. The music was playing on an iPad? And that was okay with these people?!? That is to sound as Chinese ripoffs are to art.
    3. I would have walked out. (At least I think I would)

    • I thought of comparing it to smoking, but the issue with smoking is that there is clear evidence of damage to health, even with secondary smoke. There is no evidence that music is damaging to my health, and there is some evidence that some music can help some people concentrate. So that argument didn’t make the cut for me. She had speakers. And a battery pack. This was clearly a woman of privilege, and I think part of that bothered me, too. Yeah, if the class had been local and less expensive, I would have walked out, too. But dang, I came to learn something and had spent a good deal in hotel, equipment, meals, gas and it stopped me from leaving.

  30. I, like you, much prefer silence. The “noise-needer” did not have a right to inflict her noise on everyone else. That’s why they make earphones. The teacher should have spoken up and taken control. I think I would have spoken to the teacher and expressed my unhappiness at the situation.

  31. I can’t for the life of me understand why anyone would bring any music or sound playing device to a class and play it out loud with a group of other people there, isn’t that just rude? And why on earth an i-pad? Wouldn’t a small device like an mp3 player or i-pod with headphones be a much better choice? I have no idea what I would have done, but ear phones seem to be the logical option in any case. Standing up to a majority of silent people is hard, I have done it at times, but it does depend on my own annoyance and level of courage at that specific moment, so don’t know how I would respond in your place.

    I’m also glad I’m not the only one who finds it hard to work with distractions going on. The only time I play music in the studio is when I do what I call ‘dumb work’ like gessoing pages or colouring in doodles and I really do like it then and will often sing along. When I have to work out ideas or really focus on something I prefer it quiet though. I’m not good at multitasking (I don’t think anyone is, but that’s a whole other discussion, haha) and don’t want my brain scattered over a dozen things at the same time, it’s busy enough in there as it is anyway.

  32. Regardless of who was supposed to suggest a compromise, I would’ve asked for a vote….or even made the suggestion she use her earphones. A class is a group and EVERYONE has the same rights. Next time speak up.

    • Can we take a vote on that? I really was intimidated. I had asked for what I needed and didn’t get it. I also felt guilty at wanting what the majority didn’t want. But I’m learning a lot from these suggestions.I think shame of being different was involved for me, too.

  33. I used to play the finale of the 1812 full blast; the copy I used had real guns firing and was guaranteed to drown out anything else, lol!.
    But seriously, its incredibly rude and very distracting. But when you have a weak instructor who will not take charge, it gets difficult, and bullies, because it is bullying, and those who agreed with her were merely following the strongest person in the room, tend to ask a yes/no question where “no” seems churlish. However, there cannot be a “no” answer to a statement that you think a compromise needs to be reached; the bully would then lose any higher moral ground, so the only option for her to save face is to work on a compromise, like using ear plugs, turning the volume way up, and let those who want to listen snuggle up to her. Didn’t school teachers send noisy kids to the back of the class at school so they didn’t unsettle the rest of the class? This is exactly the same situation.
    Of course,the fall-back position is to move closer and sing along with the music, very off-key, and very loudly, and encourage the fence-sitters to join in. Ear plugs soon appear and the music vanish. But then I can be a very uncouth Aussie when annoyed, lol!

    • You made an excellent point when you said that it turned into bullying when she refused to compromise. And OMG, I am SO glad I did not think of the singing along idea. I have a horrible, off-key voice and I would have been soooo tempted! Thanks for the wonderful laugh!

  34. you have the right to ask that they use earphones and the teacher have to say that!!
    say something about this and leave the class if they not agree with you! make an statement.. why shout you have the listen to otherone’s music in class ????

    • You know, leaving the class would have been a big loss for me. The class was expensive, I’d had to buy a lot of supplies, and I was in a hotel for three days (eating meals out) taken off work, and spent the gas to drive to the location. One of the reasons I didn’t leave was the expense I’d put into the class. That’s why I reviewed m goal. I very nearly DID leave.

  35. I think I would have spoken quietly and away from class with the class leader. And asked her to find some solution that might better meet theneeds of all class parcipants.
    Failing that, bought some earplugs!

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