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Satan doesn't like silence, and so it's not surprising that our era hunts down mercilessly all the opportunities we could have to pray or think. Whether it's in the waiting room of the car dealership, or that of the hospital's emergency ward, or in public places, or even unfortunately in our own house, when the neighbors have no class, we are harassed by idiotic radio programs, bestial "music", and (at least in the Province of Quebec) blasphemous conversations.
Fortunately, God has mercy on us. Modern technology allows us to have constantly at our side a nice portable chapel which cuts off the surrounding stupidity!
David Clark Stereo Noise Attenuating Headset Model 10S-DC
First, you need noise-suppressing headphones which are also equipped with little speakers. Make sure you get a sound-suppression level of at least 28 Decibels, as well as scilicon gel ear pads which are replacable, and of course speakers that are good enough to listen to music. The model I currently recommend (David Clark 10S-DC) is very expensive, is very bulky and heavy, but is well worth it. What comfort! And what peace!
Little historical tidbit: the David Clark company also manufactures the space suits used by American astronauts, as well as the pressure suits used by U-2 spy plane pilots who fly in the upper atmosphere, etc.
NHT SuperBud Earphones.
If you need a more compact and light solution (but unfortunately less comfortable and less noise-suppressing), these days I use "NHT SuperBud Earphones", with "Comply T-200 BLK-L" replacement earphone tips.
Warning to you if you don't like wasting your money: I made several mistakes which cost me dearly before arriving at the David Clark's.
My first error was the Ryobi Tek4. I say "error", but they served me faithfully for at least a year, and I have an eternal debt to my brother who made me discover the beauty of noise-suppressing headphones. Shortcomings: they are very uncomfortable (after half an hour, my head hurts) and their ear pads are of poor quality, on top of not being replaceable (and they become compacted and hard after about a year). Their advantages are that they cost three times less than the David Clarks, and they are easy to obtain.
ERROR! Ryobi Tek4 Audio Plus Noise Suppression Headphones Model RP4530
My second error was the Sure In-Ears. The idea was good: to have the same advantages of the Ryobi Tek4, but in a device much smaller and lighter (they cost about the same). Except I was never able to put them on! I fought to try to get them into my ears, without ever succeeding... And I'm not even talking about the weird cables that were jumping around like the tentacles of a giant squid... Incredible.
I guess for a rock band singer who has his own technician to insert these earphones into his ears, and who wears them without interruption during his whole show, it could work. Except I have to put them on myself, and I often have to remove them during my workday.
ERROR! Sure SE 215 Sound Isolating Earphones
Olympus Digital Voice Recorder WS-812
As far as I know, any good MP3 music file player will work. My current favorite is the little Olympus. This kind of MP3 reader has many advantages:
- A normal battery (standard AAA format). I hate electronic devices that require some strange battery, often expensive and hard to find.
- A removable battery. I find it profoundly stupid to have a battery integrated into an electronic device. Rechargeable batteries wear out, so when the integrated battery dies, you have to throw out the whole device! Moreover, with a removable battery, you can have fully-charged replacement batteries ready to jump into action. (Imagine a soldier who would empty his rifle's magazine, and who would have to tell the enemy: "Could you please stop the war for a few hours, I need to go plug in my rifle to recharge it?")
- Integrated USB plug. No need to carry around a stupid USB cable.
- User-friendly buttons. With the miniaturization of electronics, it's easy to build a tiny MP3 player. Except when you can't even put your fingers on the buttons, or (which is even more frequent), when the dozens of features of the device are accessible only through one or two buttons, it's not progress!
Moreover, this type of device has even more advantages for singers in a gregorian chant choir:
- Small integrated speaker. Of course, you can plug in normal headphones, but there is also a small integrated speaker. The sound quality isn't good, but it's enough to give the first few notes of a chant (especially during a procession outside, where it would take too much time to find and plug some headphones).
- Integrated microphone and ease of recording. Some litanies are easy to sing, when we're calmly practicing at home, but impossible to remember during the stress of a procession! But we can record ourselves while we're calm and in front of the piano (to get the right notes), and re-play that when we need it the most!
- Direct access to a specific location in an MP3 file . The difficulties of a gregorian chant are normally concentrated in a few passages. We have to be able to write them down in our chant book (for example: "Yikes 1m23s!"), and then scroll directly to them, to practice those hard sections before Mass.
- Possibility of "looping between bookmarks". You can mark the start and the end of a passage with bookmarks, and then endlessly loop through that passage. Here again, very handy to get the knack of a hard spot by listening to it several times in a row.
- Affordable. Since it's not too expensive, all the members of the choir can own one, in order to practice at home, but also to be able to lend it to the Choir Director if ever his breaks down during a ceremony. (Technology always fails at the worst possible moment!)
- Memory. The whole liturgical years fits (you need at least 2 gigabytes).
- Small size of the device. Since it's small, you can always have it with you, even during a procession. The best tool in the world is useless, if you don't have it when you need it!
Noise-suppression headphones greatly reduce ambiant noise, but they can't eliminate it completely. On the other hand, adding just a bit of music is normally enough to completely hide surrounding noise. Of course, since the goal is to pray or philosophize, you don't want to listen to bad music which strangles the intelligence and excites the senses! You want to do the exact opposite! You want to calm down the senses, and wake up intelligence.
The best music to do that is gregorian chant. I'm not an expert, but I like the work of Father Bernard Lorber:
The Whole Liturgical Year in Gregorian Chant.
Heaven cannot be purchased (otherwise than with the Precious Blood of Christ!), but on the other hand a good approximation of earthly paradise is available in good stores now!
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