The past 10+ years have really focused on the visual senses regarding culture. The age of smartphones seem to have steered our senses toward a visually dominant experience and interaction with others. Texting, Facebook, Youtube, Instagram and Snapchat, Twitter, memes, blogs, all of these focus on what you can see, read and understand using your eyes.
To me, there were some parts of the 1980’s-1990’s teenager culture in the U.S. that screamed audio dominance. Noisy arcades, MTV music, concerts and radio for instance.
Of course “video” games were anything but audio centric, though what I remember walking through arcades when I was young were machines surrounding me with loud music and sound effects. Pinball machines in one area clicking, dinging, flipper-ing.. On top of that, people talking loudly, laughing, screaming, cheering. A true gathering, a community even if most people didn’t know each other. Many times these arcade games were in pizza parlors (another 80’s-90’s staple) which also had jukeboxes.
Don’t even get me started on jukeboxes.
MTV’s shtick was video but its heart was music. It dominated televisions day and night with music videos of a once-in-a-generational declaration. It got us to spend every last dollar on tapes and CDs for our walkmans and discmans with their characteristic on-ear headphones that still rock today.
I unfortunately didn’t get to experience many local (or otherwise) concerts until I was around 21. I guess I just never had a friend that played in a band that asked me to see them play somewhere random where I’d be inundated into the “local scene”. Even then I wish I did know someone.
Radio was still dominant then when it came to discovering new music. MTV was big but local radio had a much different character. And more importantly, it had a /local/ character. You would tap into the local culture through truly local radio stations. Not the piped-in syndicated blubber that we all still know (and love?) today, but the stations that took listener calls, held contests for tickets and had funny morning hosts to help jumpstart your day.
Video may be enticing and intoxicating, and I definitely do not dismiss it as a dominant human sense. I feel that audio presents a very interesting avenue for influence and even a deeper cultural anchor based in rhythm and repetition.