Marcus Yam for the New York Times
How It’s New York: Make Music New York is a wonderful example of New York civic feeling, as musicians all over the city came out to play.

How It’s Irish:  Two people from New York Irish Arts went along (yes we are girls about town!)   LUCY HEALY-KELLY is our latest editor-at large– she’s written a few reviews for the site already and we’re so thrilled to have her!  That’s her on the right.   And there is something sort of deadpan funny in an Irish way about testing noise mufflers on a music day.
Neil Genzlinger invited me to come along with him on one of his City Critic column excursions.  As you might have noticed from his comment on Irish dance (Is there more to Irish dance than all this tippety tippety tap?) when we were both assigned to cover the Michael Flatley 3-D film of Lord of the Dance, Neil is a funny guy.  So his angle on Make Music New York was to use it as a way to test various noise reducers.  Newflash:  none of them worked, and four days later I think I’ve finally got the last of the bio-ears out of my hair.  Yuck!  

Several people posted on Facebook when I shared the link that they wanted to see pictures of the kitty hat.  Photographer Marcus had intended to take pictures of all the used items at the end but got caught up filming some bagpipers while we went to Korea town.  All that walking around made us hungry!  Our conclusions:

We agreed that the earmuffs and the kitty hat were essentially useless in blocking sound, a dismaying discovery because I thought they made quite a fashion statement. And Mack’s Ultras were the most effective, though not, Ms. Orel noted, as effective as simply sticking one’s fingers in one’s ears. 

But so the suspense will not kill you, here’s the kitty hat!

may not be noise protective, but it’s cute!

I should add too that Neil’s impression of the Bio-Ears contrasted with mine and Lucy’s.  A gender thing, perhaps?  The methodology isn’t laid out in the piece, but it was very scientific.  Although there was that moment when Lucy and I totally lost Marcus and Neil, because the saxophone players weren’t actually on 66th and Broadway but on 65th and Columbus (a running theme of the day!)…

Here’s some of his piece (for the rest, please go to the New York Times site!):  
City Critic

Could You Pipe Down? My Ears Thank You

Marcus Yam for The New York Times
MAKE SOME NOISE The City Critic tuned out tubas at Broadway and 63rd with Gwen Orel, center, and Lucy Healy-Kelly.
Published: June 24, 2011 
 My two friends and I don’t expect a Nobel Prize. We don’t expect to have a bridge or a building named after us. None of the great scientists think in those terms while pursuing their breakthroughs; they think only of the good their research might do for humanity.

That’s what we were thinking about as we sat in assorted public places on an 80-degree evening taking turns wearing a pair of purple earmuffs and a ridiculous knit cap made to look like a kitten’s head. At least, I’m pretty sure that’s what we were thinking. It was actually somewhat difficult to concentrate because of the racket the bagpipers and tuba players were making.

The day was Tuesday, and an outfit called Make Music New York had arranged outdoor musical performances all over town, some by professionals, others featuring recreational players who simply turned up at a designated time and place to jam.
The heart has to love the idea of this event: making connections among musicians and creating surprise bursts of music for unsuspecting pedestrians. But the cold, grumpy rational mind might well conclude that New York City doesn’t really need any more music, thank you. What with the concert halls, the clubs, the licensed buskers, the unlicensed buskers, the elevator music, the ringtones and the blaring car radios, you already can’t go more than a few minutes without hearing some, whether you want to or not.
No, New York doesn’t really need any more music; what it needs is more silence. But can the average person hope to find any these days? Is there anything a guy who just wants a little peace and quiet can put in or over his ears to get it?
Make Music New York seemed the perfect opportunity to answer that last question through a rigidly controlled scientific study. I picked four of its events to test various din-reducing products. I avoided pricey stuff like Bose noise-canceling headphones, which cost about $300, on the theory that anyone who can afford to spend $300 on headphones can also afford a second home in the country where there’s plenty of quiet. My focus was on things you can get from a drugstore for a few bucks or from the back of your closet for nothing.
To help conduct the research, I recruited two people with special knowledge of acoustics: Lucy Healy-Kelly, whose expertise is based on living next to Boots & Saddle, a bar in the West Village where karaoke often breaks out; and Gwen Orel, whose expertise consists of having ears and owning the aforementioned kitty hat, one of those embarrassing things with flaps that cover the ears. (Ms. Orel and Ms. Healy-Kelly write about all things Irish on the blog New York Irish Arts.)


Gwen Orel
About the Author

The only New York journalist who writes for both the Forward and Irish Music Magazine.