Monday, March 29, 2010

Attention must be paid

More words picked out from my recent Fellini addiction:

Since music has the power to condition subliminally, I prefer to avoid it whenever I am not listening consciously, as with my work. Music is too important to be relegated to the status of background noise. If I enter a restaurant or an apartment where recorded music is being played, as politely as I can, I request that it be turned off, much as I would ask someone to please stop smoking in close quarters. I resent being a captive listener, a captive inhaler, a captive anything. I don't understand how people can eat, drink, talk, drive, read, even make love while listening to music. Imagine having to chew faster to keep up with the beat. And the situation is getting ever worse. Unwanted music is becoming as pervasive as pollution. In New York, I heard music on the telephone, music in the elevators, music even in the toilets, where the ultimate captive audience is to be found.

I haven't ever thought of it that way, but second-hand smoke really is a perfect metaphor for the music that is forced upon us as we innocently try to go about our lives.

[Photo credit: Dominic's Pics]


cinderkeys said...

Interesting thoughts. I don't mind background music if I really like the music, and if I don't have to talk to other people over the music. I've been known to sing along in grocery stores (though the good stuff is far and few between in grocery stores).

Apropos of nothing, I quoted your dissertation in my latest blog post.

jad said...

Do you ever listen to background music? (There's some--e.g., a lot of late 20th c classical music--that I can listen to in concert, but never at home unless I'm doing something else).

Also, what's the reaction of the restaurant owner? You clearly eat at places that are a lot different from those I frequent!

Art said...

This has very little to do with this idea directly, but the ShopRite we go to every Sunday here in Hoboken plays the same music every week. I feel like I could set my watch to it. I'll think "Wow, we must be running late this week. 'Girl You'll Be a Woman Soon' is playing and we're only in the cereal aisle".

The thing that bothers me is that I AM conscious of it--more than I'd like to be. I'm not sure if I'm in the minority in this regard, but my guess is that I'm not.

I think it would be interesting to shop in a music-free supermarket. It might be unnerving, but my thought is that people would actually be more conscious of themselves and maybe show a little more consideration to their fellow shoppers.

Andrew Durkin... said...

Wow, Susan -- thanks for making use of my words! Very flattering -- particularly given that your post is fantastic.

jad -- I do listen to background music, but often I end up making it into foreground music, so that the thing I am supposed to be doing (cleaning, reading, driving, etc) suffers.

I have never done the thing Fellini is claiming to have done here -- asking a restaurant owner to turn off the music coming over the PA -- though I have been tempted. I think the basic source of resentment for me is not so much being surrounded by music all the time, but finding that much of it is unwanted (stuff I would never choose to listen to), and having no control over it. I truly dread getting on the phone if I know there is a chance I will have to be placed on hold -- because chances are good I already have my own selection of music playing in my house, and I don't need something competing with that.

Art -- your Shop-Rite story is hilarious. And I think you are essentially right that music in that context becomes a kind of social insulation -- making it easier to avoid interaction. Which is kind of ironic, if you think about it.