Why it's time to turn the music off
Roger Scruton - BBC Magazine
It's time to switch the music off in order to rediscover its true value, says Roger Scruton.
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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