Critically examine the present-day use of historical classical music in public, everyday sites such as transport hubs, inner city neighbourhoods and/or shops or cafes. Discuss the artistic, social and ethical issues raised when classical music is used as a method of social ordering or ‘control’. Your essay should make reference to specific examples of contexts where classical music is used in this way.In this essay I would like to present examples and explore the present-day use of historical classical music in public and in a non-concert setting. My aim is to review, analyse and discuss such cases of classical music usage by referring to an existing research material and present opinions of my own.
For this particular writing I would like to focus on examples where historical classical music is used as a tool for crime prevention and marketing. I think that classical music being used in this way raises some interesting thoughts, questions and challenges the traditional public view of classical music in general: classical music has been most often promoted as a pinnacle of artistic human achievement. However, classical music can be used not just as a means of art or entertainment but as sonic weapon to maintain social order in and influence the public behaviour.I would like to begin the first paragraph focusing on classical music usage to prevent criminal activity or vandalism in public areas such as car parks, shopping malls, bus stations, restaurants, fast food chains etc. One of the first known examples of classical music being used in this way can be traced back to 1980s to Canada where a chain of stores called 7-eleven started playing classical music on loudspeakers around their property in order to prevent gangs and teenagers from loitering around (1). The general idea was that classical music would be so alien to hooligans and vandals that they would simply leave the area instead of causing further damage.
As a result, the experiment was successful and following the Canadian triumph plenty more countries and businesses started to adopt this technique. The first such usage of classical music in the UK was at a Tyne and Wear underground metro station in North England in 1997 where Classical music was being played on loudspeakers in the station with purpose to deter vandals and youngsters from vandalising and causing damage (2). After the little experiment at Tyne and Wear turned out to be successful, a more empirical research was conducted in London Elm Park Station a few years later in2003. In this station vandalism and gangs caused so much trouble that some train drivers where seriously afraid or at least were extremely cautious about making a stop there. As a response to these complaints, Elm Park station set-up an 18-month trial research period for which a 40-hour playlist was assembled. The playlist consisted of classical music from 18th and 19th centuries and was played throughout the day in the station using loudspeakers as a tool to prevent gangs and teenagers from loitering and vandalising.
The playlist included such composers as Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, Vivaldi, Handel, Beethoven and played pieces like ‘Four Seasons’, ‘Nutcracker’ and ‘Winter Fairy’ from Cinderella. After the 18-month trial finished the research results were published reporting that during that period there was a 33% decrease in robberies, assaults on staff members were cut by 25% and vandalism in general was reduced by 37% (3). Ever since Elm Park station experiment showed promise, such a way of using classical music as a crime prevention tool has become increasingly popular. The method has been extended to over 65 different stations across the London metro network with more likely to follow (4).Similar experiments have been made using sound as a crime deterring tool. A good example would be The Mosquito device or as it’s also called a Mosquito Alarm.
It is simply and electronic device that emits high frequency sound waves. It’s usually set up in a way that only youngsters and teenagers can hear the pitch being transmitted (with an assumption of course that this certain age group is causing the most trouble). Mosquito was originally invented by Howarth Stapleton in 2005 and was first used in Barry, South Wales to reduce criminal activity and vandalism by teenagers around grocery stores (5). The high frequency pitch emitted by the device is extremely uncomfortable 17khz pitch that covers 35 to 40 meters range and plays as loud as 108 decibels (6). The idea is that those who can hear the frequency will find spaces in which it is audible unpleasant and uncomfortable to stay around.Without any surprise the Mosquito has faced quite a lot of opposition from the general public and various civil rights movements (7). Mainly because of various health and safety risks to the human brain that is being exposed to the high pitch frequency for too long. Clearly using classical music instead of an annoying high pitch frequency as a crime prevention tool is a much more humanitarian way of achieving the same result just by different means.
There are a few speculations about why the classical music approach works. Since there is a lack of empirical scientific research on this issue (I think mainly because ofthe nature of the experiment which is difficult to reproduce it in a controlled laboratory environment) I would consider a couple of different options. I will start with the one option that has the fewest assumptions: Teenagers and vandals who linger around public spaces and do not have much of a social life, simply do not possess an educated ear. They do not like classical music and never listen to it. On top of that their peers and gang members find classical music ‘uncool’ and they do not want to be seen around listening to it.
To put it in yet another way, classical music itself is not unpleasant to these people – gang members, vandals, thugs, etc. It is rather the social meaning that it represents. Interviewed by the Los Angeles Times Composer and a conductor Rob Kapilow has a few opinions on this matter:Is the content of the music so unpleasant that they don’t want to be there? Or does the music create an environment that they would be embarrassed to be part of, because it’s not ‘cool’?They listen to this sound, and what comes with it is this whole association of its packaging, which is unpleasant: ‘We don’t want to be part of that elitist, white-tails, concert-going kind of world’.Of all the packages that come to mind quickly, which one is furthest from our images of those thugs? Be quiet, be well-dressed, be polite. They’re choosing the whole world of classical music and not the music itself.
(8)In other words, the effectiveness of classical music as a crime prevention tool in this example would be its unfamiliarity to certain class of people. It is quite simple: unless vandals and aggressive teenagers become familiar with classical music through any kind of educative process, they will not be able to understand and thus enjoy the compositions. Most likely they will express their taste for music that is imposed for them by the media or simply more accessible music: popular, rap, rock etc. Classical music is not a part of their cultural identity. If you do not like or appreciate heavy rap music, would you stay around for more?Another explanation on why classical music works may lie in the nature of classical music itself.
Much of it symbolises order, symmetry and beauty unlike the angry thoughts of a hooligan in the midst of criminal activity. Musicologist and pianistGiovanni Bietti on how some composers themselves viewed classical music and its emotional impact on society:Beethoven was profoundly convinced that music could make a great social contribution. He, like Mozart and Haydn, had a rational picture of music, which is why in their compositions the initial contrasts are always resolved through the rules of musical composition, creativity and intelligence. It’s clear that these logical and musical processes, which inevitably resolve the conflicts giving order to thoughts, discourage those who do not accept the rules. And it is equally clear that even those who do not know music perceive them, because the subliminal message of these compositions is strong enough to convey this sense of order to anyone.
(9)I do think that classical music works as a crime deterrent not only because it might challenge the cultural identity of a criminal but also because of the characteristics of the music. It is hard to imagine a scenario in which any other genre of music would bring better results on this issue than classical music. It is composed in such a way that even listening to a violent and furious composition like for example Vivaldi’s ‘Summer’ from the ‘Four Seasons’ – Presto, it still conveys some sense of order and intellect. In my opinion, unlike any modern popular music which might fall under the same definition as ‘furious’, Vivaldi’s ‘Summer’ would not provoke any violence or anger in the mind of a hooligan.I personally think that playing classical music publicly and use that as a crime prevention tool is clever and ingenious idea but not everyone thinks that way. For example, British commentator and music and cultural affairs writes:Music is a vast psychological mystery and playing it to police railways is culturally reckless, profoundly demeaning to one of the greater glories of civilization.
(10)On a different note, but on a similar point, president of chamber music in Monterey Bay says:I find it sad and scary that the educated and middle-aged folks who would be on a city council are so inclined to think classical music would drive anyone away, rather than the opposite (10)I personally do not hold a supporting view on these opinions. On the contrary I think that having classical music played in public generally is a good thing and creates a sort of win-win scenario. For a person who genuinely enjoys classical music hearing it while waiting for a morning train could bring pleasant thoughts and emotions. Secondly, I would also suspect that a majority of people who do not listen to classical music regularly, at least don’t mind it, therefore it will not evoke much unpleasantness for them. Obviously, hooligans and vandals will feel repelled by it and only for the better. Using classical music as a kind of territorial marker in no way diminishes it’s worth.
A good analogy to my view was presented by Lily E. Hirsch in a Journal of Popular Music Studies:Like a sword in a museum, its past as a weapon in battle effaced for a future as an object of history or even art, music can be both a weapon and a tool, depending on the context. (11)To summarise this last point, I think that as a society we should encourage that classical music or any other artistic heritage for that matter would be used in new and creative ways for the benefit and happiness of a society. Attaching ourselves to the view that old traditions are sacred, fixed, and above innovation is unproductive and can certainly stop innovative people from bringing great new ideas into our lives.I would also like to consider classical music not as a means to repel, but rather to attract.
Classical music can be used as a marketing tool in certain contexts and persuade people to buy and spend more. This is another way to generate social ordering and I think it fits well within this writing.I would like to focus on a research made by Charles S. Areni and David Kim from Texas Technology University titled ‘The Influence of Background Music on Shopping Behaviour’ (12). The research was conducted in a wine store in Texas where the research was focused on how classical music and how popular music affect consumer behaviour. The results of this research indicated that classical music played in the background of the wine store influenced shoppers to spend more money. Interestingly enough, it did not increase the amount of wine purchased, but rather, customersselected more expensive merchandise instead.
The premise on why it had such an effect brings us back to the association of classical music with high-class culture. As suggested in the research, classical music may have communicated a sophisticated, upper-class, atmosphere offering customers to consider more expensive merchandise.I presented this example because I find it interesting how classical music can be used to affect behaviour in different contexts.To conclude the essay a couple of things can be said. I think that music generally plays an important role as a part of our cultural identity and it is of no surprise that that can be exploited in different ways. On one hand you have classical music being used as a tool to establish order and safety in our society. To prevent crime and ensure that there will be as little suffering as possible in the local community. In this case it serves as a symbol for structure, order and symmetry.
On the other hand, classical music is being used as a tool to attract. It may influence consumer behaviour by exploiting its associations to high class and power. In either way it has nothing to do with the inherent ‘worth’ of classical music but rather what it represents in different contexts. I do not think that using classical music in either way causes any social or moral issues nor can it bring much harm. Quite the opposite, I think that cases like these show the flexibility and versatility of classical music. Not only can it be used as a means of entertainment, but the music itself has a strong position of power and influence over our lives. Plato in ‘The Republic’ writes:Rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul (13)Ultimately, I think the examples provided show that classical music connects and means something to us as people.
And no matter in what way it is used it will play an important role of our lives regardless.References1. January 20, 2012, Washington Post. ‘Blasting Mozart to Drive Criminals Away’. https://www.
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http://www.youthrights.org/news/hastings-debates-pitching-out-teen-vandals/8. February 13, 2005. Los Angeles Times. http://articles.
latimes.com/2005/feb/13/entertainment/ca-musichurts13/29. July 30, 2014.
http://www.thelatestnews.com/criminals-afraid-classical-music/10. February 13, 2005. Los Angeles Times http://articles.latimes.com/2005/feb/13/entertainment/ca-musichurts1311. Journal of Popular Music Studies, Volume 19, Issue 4, Pages 353.
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https://theoryofmusic.wordpress.com/2008/08/04/music-in-platos-republic/Word Count: 2300