Why It’s Time to Turn Off the Music–At Least for a Little While

With music being so ubiquitous, maybe we need to turn it off for a while in order to learn to appreciate it again. This is from the BBC.

In almost every public place today the ears are assailed by the sound of pop music. In shopping malls, public houses, restaurants, hotels and elevators the ambient sound is not human conversation but the music disgorged into the air by speakers – usually invisible and inaccessible speakers that cannot be punished for their impertinence. Some places brand themselves with their own signature sound – folk, jazz or excerpts from the Broadway musicals. For the most part, however, the prevailing music is of an astounding banality – it is there in order not to be really there.

It is a background to the business of consuming things, a surrounding nothingness on which we scribble the graffiti of our desires. The worst forms of this music – sometimes known, after the trade name, as Muzak – are produced without the intervention of musicians, being put together on a computer from a repertoire of standard effects.

The background sounds of modern life are therefore less and less human. Rhythm, which is the sound of life, has been largely replaced by electrical pulses, produced by a machine programmed to repeat itself ad infinitum, and to thrust its booming bass notes into the very bones of the victim. Whole areas of civic space in our society are now policed by this sound, which drives anybody with the slightest feeling for music to distraction, and ensures that for many of us a visit to the pub or a meal in a restaurant have lost their residual meaning. These are no longer social events, but experiments in endurance, as you shout at each other over the deadly noise.

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

3 thoughts on “Why It’s Time to Turn Off the Music–At Least for a Little While

  • November 16, 2015 at 12:00 pm
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    I was shopping in Giant Tiger on the weekend, and was subjected to Christmas music, already, midway through November! I hate fricking Christmas music to start with, and I have come to dread this time of year because of it. You know, a couple of weeks before Christmas is fine, but now???

    Reply
  • November 16, 2015 at 2:21 pm
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    The article gets a bit preachy and elitist about music, but one thing I agree with near the beginning – and I’m going to sound super old for this – but since when do PUBS blast club music? What the hell is the point of a pub if not to talk and relax, not be subjected to shitty club songs?! Pubs don’t have dancefloors for a reason. I seem to encounter this a lot now, and it’s complete bullshit. Asshole DJs, you are the worst.

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  • November 16, 2015 at 6:49 pm
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    It could be because I love music, but I think it would be a little awkward to be in a business without music. However, I totally understand how it may be less than enjoyable if it is a song or type of music someone dislikes, but you can never please everyone!

    Reply

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