15 November 2015

The world has become terrified of silence

It made me think about how often I’m made to listen to the music choices of other people: on public transport, in restaurants and lifts, in shops, when I’m on hold, even when giving birth. It’s as if the world has become terrified of silence.

I was in a Little Chef once, on the A40, with my family. We all felt relaxed and happy and calm but couldn’t figure out why. Then the penny dropped: there was no music playing and the lights were dimmed. We congratulated the staff on their “classy joint”; they looked confused, and apologised for the power cut.

Music is used to manipulate us, all the time. It’s used by youths, on buses, who make us listen to their tunes to prove they have higher status; it’s used by supermarket chains and department stores to accompany their ludicrously absurd and exploitative Christmas advertising campaigns; it’s used by the X Factor, who exaggerate contestants’ backstories to influence public votes; it’s used by men from the past, who think a bit of Chris de Burgh will “get us in the mood”.

Where will this abuse of music to control our emotional responses end? Perhaps the emergency services should have musical accompaniments instead of their high-pitched, ear-busting sirens? Maybe politicians, when they are interviewed, should be accompanied by a backing track, to help us decide who to trust?

- Bridget Christie, Guardian, 14 November 2015
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