Come back Muzak....all is forgiven


Does background music sometimes morph into foreground noise? There was a time when stuck in a lift and hearing an instrumental version of the uber soppy song 'Feelings' had the same effect on me as fingernails on a blackboard. I even checked out of a hotel in Grand Canary as it insisted on piping out to the swimming pool, Beatles hits played on a flute. Luxury. I had no idea how blessed I was. At least it was bland. I had breakfast in New York recently where I was subjected to everything from Acid Techno to Xylophone Rap Music. Yesterday I was wandering round a local Computer store accompanied by Death Metal so loud my teeth rattled. Clearly to the Goths who were working the tills that day this racket was aural nectar but not when I am trying to remember which type of connector my wife has on her iPad. When I am subjected to a music genre that slaps me in the face and actually pisses me off, is that really the effect the store owners want to foster? Music is for the customer, not the staff.

...and another thing

In those places that actually still play Muzak, it is of course music to manipulate you by. Next time you pop into your local Tesco, Wall Mart or whatever, note the music fizzing away in the background. Go there at peak time and it will be upbeat with a quick tempo. They are busy and want you to shop and get out. Go midafternoon and it’s all syrupy dross as if the whole world has h-i-t t-h-e s-l-o-w b-u-t-t-o-n.

“Take as long as you want”, it cooes in your ear. “No hurry….don’t those cupcakes look great”.

Morning it’s often Country and Western. It apparently imbues us with a sense of wellbeing.

Elevator music is to soothe you, de-stress you from the fact some kid has hit every button as you try and make a meeting you are already late for. Though I suspect if it suddenly descends 100 stories to smash into smithereens, Kenny Gee will be not really be heard over the shrieks of the occupants as they plunge straight through the gates of heaven.

A pet hate is music that is played by phone companies whilst you are put on hold. It’s not the choice of songs in themselves that drive me bats but the fading in and out of static hiss that accompanies it and makes you hang up… or want to hang the operator when they eventually come back.

However first prize for truly asinine background music are high street shops of every stripe that repeat the same mistake every year. Who thinks the playing of Christmas songs as early as October does anything other than make people want to clamp both hands over their ears? By the time it actually gets to the end of December I have heard White Christmas so many times that a few bars of Thrash Rock might even be a welcome relief.

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