Cacophony is an interesting word. It is a noun that means discord or dissonance. Some people use it to describe the noise of our day to day lives.
While I was riding on the plane recently, I read an article that promoted the art of living slowly. The author had gotten himself so stressed by the busy-ness of his life. One day his son said words that gave him a reality check. He decided that checking in with facebook and twitter and email all throughout the day, even during meals and family time, was not right and that he could be just as productive reserving work time to certain hours and preserving precious family time. He was feeling cacophony in his life - too many voices pulling him in all directions at the same time. He decided to plan a month of living slowly. In other words shutting out all the noise that disrupted and created discord in his life. He decided to tune into live people and have actual face to face conversations. He spent the little time he had away from work really there for his family. They did activities together and ignored the distractions of television, the news and social media. He hoped that he would continue to remember this experiment and find the peace and quiet of living slowly.
Cacophony not only describes the competing voices that disrupt our day, but also the volume of those sounds. Some noises are so common in our environment that we hardly notice them. City sounds such as traffic, whistles, hums, sirens, and construction work barely register because we get so used to them. Some sounds we feel before we actually become aware of them. Sounds like the heavy bass of music in a passing car, sonic booms of jet planes, the rumble of the subway or trains going by, or air conditioning or heating blowers about to turn on. Depending on where we live, these sounds may be so prevalent in our world that we just accept them and unconsciously block them out. Sometimes we turn the volume up of our radios or music players to blast above all of the other sounds going on. Some people are so adjusted to the din of loud noises that they actually find quiet quite disturbing.
Finding quiet amidst of the cacophony of our world can be a mighty quest, but one well worth mounting.
Once we moved our family from the big city that never sleeps or gets dark to the country where night is deafeningly quiet and pitch black. The sudden change was cacophony in reverse. It was unsettling for the children until they learned how to listen to subtle sounds such as the rustling of leaves in the trees or the crickets chirping or the distant sounds of cars on the highway, or even the sporadic dropping of the ice cubes in the ice maker. We spent time playing listening games every night so that they could become familiar with the new sounds in their world and feel safe. Soon they were able to sleep through the night and began to enjoy waking to hear the birds singing in the early morning sun.
It is said that "music hath power to soothe the raging beast." Music does indeed hold great power to influence our moods. Anyone who has been to the movies knows that. Composers have learned just what to do to heighten the drama and punctuate the action in the movies. Music and rhythm in our world are freely used to excite the basest drives of the natural man. But worthy music can also be used to soothe and calm and exalt and bless. Music that is a conduit for the Spirit can be used to teach and comfort and is powerful indeed. That inspired music can work to bring peace to the soul. It can help that person find quiet in this world of cacophony.
I was visiting a church service once where it was obvious that an inexperienced organist was playing the prelude music. The volume and settings were so loud that my ears and my heart heart. Perhaps she was new to the job and was more concerned with trying to hit the notes correctly than being aware of the volume or the registrations (the selection of which sounds are being played such as flutes or strings or reeds). It struck me that maybe she had not been instructed in the art of playing soft, reverent music for prelude. People coming into the chapel should be invited to sit quietly and the prelude music should set the tone for reverent worship. The ears of the people should not be blasted with full organ registration and volume that should be reserved for accompanying the congregational singing of only the most majestic and powerful of anthems! As the church service progressed, I could not help but notice that the registrations and volume never changed. It had one setting - VERY LOUD with FULL REGISTRATION! Because I am so sensitive to musical dynamics, I left that meeting with a headache and an offended spirit. You organists out there really need to be aware of your registrations and volume settings. Remember that the room empty will be different than with it full of people, but DO NOT OVERCOMPENSATE!!!!!! Have someone in the room signal to you when you have the volume set appropriately. Do not assume that you can hear everything you need to hear from the organ bench. Please do not allow the music at church to add to the CACOPHONY of our daily lives!