[FOUNTAIN]Noise or nostalgia?

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[FOUNTAIN]Noise or nostalgia?

Scratchy noises and pops in the speakers from vinyl records were considered a major annoyance in the past, but recently it struck me that I have some feelings of nostalgia for them. One CD was even issued with those sounds inserted.

The sound in television ads of clothing being pounded while it is being washed also reminds us of our childhood. I miss the times when I fell asleep lying on the wooden floor of the main room, listening to my mother pounding with birch paddles. Other memorable sounds are the early morning bells of bean curd sellers and the echoes of calls by merchants selling baked yams and baked chestnuts in back alleys on a winter night. Indeed, these are sounds of home.

From birth, we live surrounded by various sounds. We realize that sounds we used to pay no attention to begin to appeal to our emotions.

On the contrary, we shudder at sounds that are disturbing, depending on the condition of our body and soul and our surroundings. Koreans have traditionally called the sound of a hog being butchered the most upsetting. Why is that? Probably because the sound is just loud, without any harmony or rhythm.

People now in their 30s or older can probably remember hearing the "Saemaeul (New Village) Song" constantly in their youth. The song was played for nearly 15 years in government offices and factories nationwide and on the radio during commuting times. The song echoed from garbage trucks prowling residential neighborhoods in the early morning. But not everyone feels nostalgic about the song. In the early 1970s, children's songs turned into political propaganda. Fortunately, those songs were not frequently blasted from garbage wagons.

Garbage trucks once played an official theme song of the 1988 Olympics followed by Beethoven's "Fur Elise." Residents called that "noise pollution." Even classical music sounded like a pig being butchered to weary urban citizens. Garbage trucks then came up with a song to tell residents to bring out the garbage. It went, "Spring and summer pass, then comes fall and winter. Beautiful mountains and rivers..." but this song was also dropped. The loudspeakers disappeared after people were allowed to drop off their garbage at the curb.

I recently read that the city of Tainan in Taiwan decided to have garbage trucks play English instruction tapes to help residents learn the language. That must have been conceived to boost national competitiveness, but what we really need is to ensure a quiet environment for our citizens. I miss some sounds, but not all of them.

The writer is a JoongAng Ilbo editorial writer.

by Choi Chul-joo

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