Sometimes I enjoy shared music played out loud in a public space, like when a coffee shop has Pandora on. But if I put on earbuds to listen privately to music that’s less dense than what they’re playing out loud, the stuff they’re playing is audible through the gaps in my private music. If they play something that’s a big jam with wall to wall sound, I have to play something equally dense. If they’re playing EDM on the speakers and I’m playing jazz on the earbuds, I hear both. There’s no way of opting out.

You can’t explain this to a person who is playing music out loud. It’s prissy to say “the people here can put in earbuds if they want to hear music, but if you put on music out loud they can’t not listen to music.” I guess everybody plays big jams with wall to wall sound so it’s usually moot.

My office is usually quiet, but yesterday a guy in my office hooked up speakers to his laptop. Late in the day he offered me the speaker hookup so I could DJ. So I picked some super quiet and sparse music, Morton Feldman, to keep the density down below whatever people might have in their earbuds.

The piece I put on is an hour-long solo piano number called “For Bunita Marcus.” It’s on YouTube. If you play it for yourself, play it quietly enough that the sound mixes with the natural sounds in the room you are in. It shouldn’t overpower conversation, the coffee machine, the sound of keystrokes on your laptop. You can even put it down so low that you only notice it once in a while.

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