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music saturation

I have specifically asked shopkeepers and clerks about the music their store plays. I have asked why they play it, if they like it, where they get it. Most of them have told me that they play it because "people like it". The music comes from several different sources but mostly the commercial  companies that allow a commercial establishment to choose the "type" music they want to hear. Today, at a gas station, I heard music from xm radio. I suspect this will increasingly be the case, the use of satellite radio, because the music is without commercials.

One time in New York I was in a drug store looking for something and listening to the music they were playing with some irritation. I didn't want to hear it. I was tempted to ask the manager to shut it off or turn it down (all of the managers I spoke to said they do this when a customer asks). Then I saw a woman in another aisle, dancing and humming to it. I guess she actually did like it.

The pervasiveness of piped-in and piped-out music has bothered me for some time. In part because I am usually no fan of the type music played, and most places play the same choices. In part because I can't turn it off in my head. I hear it, I am aware of it, and honestly I don't want to become unaware of my surroundings. Each time I get out of my car when I arrive home from work I hear the explosion of bird song in the air. That's some music I can live with. I don't want to not hear it.

I have wondered, though, at the effects of this music. Some clerks told me that it "makes the day go faster", it "drowns out other noises", and some said they "don't even hear it any more".

I was listening to Politically Direct this morning, and heard an interview with the actor who played Edward R. Murrow in Good Night and Good Luck (which movie I have extolled in other entries in this journal). Among the topics of this conversation was the difference in the influence of television anchor people between the fifties and now. Murrow's audience was far larger than any anchor now could ever hope to have. He felt, therefore, a huge responsibility for what he did and said, and crafted his words carefully. I later heard a discussion with Gore Vidal (thank you AirAmerica for these wonderful tastes) on the state of the media. He said that the media is dead. That it has two purposes: to promote the point of view for which it is paid and to distract people from thinking about what's really happening. I couldn't agree more.

It occurred to me that this second purpose, and maybe the first, in a way, is also the result, if not the purpose, of the perpetual sound in our commercial establishments and offices. Although I believe that the store keepers believe they are offering what the public wants and maybe getting them to stay longer and shop longer, I believe the effect of all of this saturation is that people cannot think. It is very hard to focus. The music distracts them, and it is everywhere, and many play it themselves everywhere (I've seen a lot of people wired to their sounds while out hiking), so ultimately their lives are filled with it and there isn't much else. It isn't a conspiracy but it might as well be.

Then, later in the afternoon, I heard one of those little educational minutes xm offers, this one on "health". The person spoke of the use of music as a cure for stress. He cited several studies that show stress levels lowering when the subject is listening to music. And he finished up by saying don't reach for the bottle, turn on the music.

As a person who deeply loves music and seeks out and pays for it, I am not carrying any signs that say "NO MORE MUSIC!" But at times I've been tempted to start a campaign to get it out of the shops, or at least ask to be offered a "sounds-free zone" or some kind of alternative. There are times I cannot do what I came to do because it bothers me so much. And I do wonder about the effect it has on us all, over time.


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 13th, 2006 01:20 am (UTC)
I also enjoyed hearing Gore Vidal interviewed on Ring of Fire, and I enjoy David Bender, as a guest and as a host.

You are certainly not alone.

Anyway, your post made me think of the piped-in music in stores (again). When I go to Borders, I generally enjoy what is being played, yet I don't think I'd miss it if none of the stores played music on the P.A.

I've worked in retail. After hearing most songs loop around for about the third or fourth time by the end of a shift, the calming effect has probably worn off if one is not a customer, who is not being paid to remain in the range of the sound for any longer than it takes to complete the transaction and get out of the store.

I think the corporatists conceive of this nation as being peopled by consumers, rather than by citizens. In their parlance: that's the bottom line.

I'm not real thrilled about it, either.
Feb. 13th, 2006 03:15 am (UTC)
WHen I went into that drugstore in New York I had a sudden realization: I couldn't work there. Because of that music. It made me think about all the places where I simply couldn't cope. I figure I'll use that argument and get disability.

Honestly, I am joking but it's true that for all my flexibility I would be really pressed to stand working in a place like that.

I'm with you on Borders and Barnes & Noble and Starbucks. They usually play music I can even enjoy but I'd rather cut it all off than have no silence, ever. I like to hear the other sounds, too. I don't like it all masked.
Feb. 13th, 2006 03:37 am (UTC)
There's almost no place left, that is absolutely free of man-made sound. Perhaps some remote woods, when one stands completely still.
Feb. 13th, 2006 01:46 pm (UTC)
Listen to me start my car up and drive off...
There is a trend here in the smaller "mainstreet" town districts to pipe in music outside on the streets! Talk about annoying as hell. The speakers are hidden in shurbs along the sidewalks. It's just obnoxious to me.

The music inside stores is often so low I don't even notice it and I never gave it any thought or attention.

The outside music is invasive and I now avoid the towns that play it all the time. Typically it's contempory jazz which I dislike as much as I dislike hip-hop/rap, and believe me, I loathe hip-hop/rap.
Feb. 13th, 2006 03:10 pm (UTC)
Re: Listen to me start my car up and drive off...
It does help when the music is turned down some. Yesterday I was in a sandwich shop eating some soup and I finally took my food outside. I was thankful that they did not have the music piped outdoors. That's a trend I really really hate.
Feb. 13th, 2006 10:04 pm (UTC)
i totally agree with you wrt: intrusive/annoying all.music.all.the.time stores.

damn those illuminati! *shakes fist at sky*

Then I saw a woman in another aisle, dancing and humming to it.

gah! seeing things like this along with enduring offensive music offends me even more.

ps - if i haven't mentioned, your joey icon is adorable!
Feb. 13th, 2006 11:53 pm (UTC)
Oh, thank you about the pic. I took the pic when Joey was here about a week ago and we went to farmers' market downtown. There was a terrific face painter there. Fast and sure of herself. He also acquired a balloon alien that was the envy of other little ones.

And what does the music have to do with the illuminati? What am I missing?
Feb. 14th, 2006 12:08 am (UTC)
just keeping with the general conspiracy theme here.. media manipulation, trying to keep the sheep confused and infused with fear, etc.

it's a plot!

illuminati, the majestic 12, area 51... ykwim. ;o)

*looks around for tin foil hat..*
Feb. 14th, 2006 01:34 am (UTC)
Excellent! I'm glad to see you're keeping up.
(Deleted comment)
Feb. 15th, 2006 04:33 pm (UTC)
Re: I'm so glad you posted this
Oh yes! The birds keep me going! I love them. I hear them in the Marigold Center, at Costco, and at home, really everywhere. I think, sometimes, of how it was before the Europeans came in and slaughtered so many, and wonder what that would be like, if we had the variety and numbers of birds now that were here then.

And yes, the restaurants do this too. There are some that do manage to keep a noise level to a point where you can't hear people at other tables but can hear the people you are with. Probably has something to do with the types of walls and furniture. I recorded a conversation with a friend at Big Sky and it was terrific! Lots of background noise but we could always hear each other. That's one of those cases where I don't object to the particular choices of music they play but would still like it off altogether. THe sound of the bartender making drinks or the waiters clinking glasses or the other customers buzzing with conversation - that's exciting enough.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )


Judith Lautner
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