Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Down with "moronic melodies"!

Sometimes I'm afraid I may be the only one who loathes music as noise. And it is transformed into noise by its extreme prevalence in all forms, all over the place, all the time. But according to Terence Blacker in today's Independent, now the composer Peter Maxwell Davies, Master of the Queen's Music, has described taped music in public places as "some kind of commercial and cultural terrorism".

Too right. It stops us thinking. It stops us feeling. It stops us questioning. It stops us speaking (you can't talk to someone who's hooked up to his headphones having the head within banged to breaking point by some synthetic beat). Why do we put up with it? And when will shops learn that it's sometimes not productive at the counters? Now and then it persuades us to buy things we absolutely shouldn't - try resisting a boutique full of women all humming along to 'Dancing Queen' - but often it has quite the opposite effect. I beat a hasty retreat from shops, even nice ones having good value sales, if I don't like the aural assault they subject me to. They lose my custom. Simples.

From Terence Blacker's article:
The composer revealed that he had recently been driven out of a branch of Waterstone's by the rubbish being played on the book shop's sound system. The "moronic melodies" of mobile phone ringtones were every bit as bad. The Performing Rights Society (PRS), collecting cash on behalf of musicians, was, said Sir Peter, contributing to a general process of dumbing down...

The reason piped music is used by business is to reduce customers to a state of blissed-out receptiveness. "Audio architecture is emotion by design," the Muzak website creepily explains, "Its power lies in its subtlety." But there is something alarming about a society so afraid of silence or the sound of human communication that it is prepared to have its privacy invaded in this way.
What went wrong? When did music turn into mass-produced mind control? I would dearly love to persuade Adam Curtis (The Power of Nightmares, The Trap, etc) to make some documentaries on the subject. Meanwhile, here's a simple message to the shops, lifts, hotel lobbies and self-deafening, noise-polluting headbangers out there: turn it off!

UPDATE: Demetrius, in the comments box, has suggested we ask you to post your worst experiences of piped music. Good idea, so please -- go for it! And, if you have any good ones that make you love it, please post those too...