Home Contributed How Two University of Michigan Alumni Are Battling Unwanted Public Music

How Two University of Michigan Alumni Are Battling Unwanted Public Music


It finally happened. People got fed up with the inescapable din projected upon them in public places. Collectively, the human race is reasonably aware of the permanent damage caused by noise above 85 decibels. What we’re less inclined to notice is everyday background noise that’s not as offensive, but certainly constant.

Well, two alumni of the University of Michigan noticed and lept into action. The former students, Gina Choe and Libby Hunter, banded together and created Quiet Ann Arbor, the slogan for which is literally, “Creating Sanctuary from Piped Music.” While the movement has a sort of tongue-in-cheek feel to it, the message and intent are far from backhanded. In fact, their organization is an affiliate of a larger movement stemming from the United Kingdom called Pipedown, following a similar path in establishing “The campaign for freedom from piped music.” A campaign that’s made its way from the U.K. to Austrailia all the way to Michigan. Brings new meaning to sound traveling over water.

The Pipedown movement, originating in the U.K., has a certain amount of cheek to it with quoted noise activists like comedian Stephen Fry saying, “Piped water, piped electricity, piped gas — but never piped music!” However, when the research is looked into, unwanted public clangor isn’t such a silly matter.

Some level of hearing deficiency inflicts approximately 20% of the U.S. population. Beyond that, the statistics on public music are deafeningly clear, hence the international uprising against something that was formerly only marginally noticed. Research and polling have shown that piped music can have detrimental effects on individuals with autism, tinnitus, and Asperger Syndrome, making their conditions situationally worse. When public noise keeps people from public spaces, the outcry should most definitely be heard; and it assuredly is.

Between Choe, Hunter, and the Pipedown movement, public action is being taken against undesirable musical ululations. In an effort to save their ears and public spaces, they’ve petitioned local businesses to have quiet hours and are peacefully protesting a pause on public pipery. And they’re doing a great job.

Never desiring to be cast as music haters, they love music just as much as the rest of us, but music has a time and place. Quiet Ann Arbor seeks to fine tune those times and places, all the while looking out for those in the community to whom the noise is bothersome.

In a final remark on music, Choe succinctly sums up their goal: “We just want to make it special.” A goal that’s music to our ears.