Sunday, October 10, 2010

The weaponization of classical music

Classical music as the audio version of a gated community:
As a classical music lover, I’d like to believe that my favourite music has some kind of magical effect on people – that it soothes the savage breast in some unique way. I’d like to think that classical music somehow inspires nobler aspirations in the mind of the purse-snatcher, causing him to abandon his line of work for something more upstanding and socially beneficial.

But I know better. The hard, cold truth is that classical music in public places is often deliberately intended to make certain kinds of people feel unwelcome. Its use has been described as “musical bug spray,” and as the “weaponization” of classical music.
Am I a very bad person for being fine with this? After all, numerous bars and trendy stores directed at young people play music that's designed to keep old fogies like me out. Whenever I walk by an Abercrombie & Fitch, I feel like the music is basically telling me: "Fuck off, old timer." The world is full of musical bug spray directed at me. So I don't see why I can't have little islands of beauty, tunefulness, and structure scattered throughout our geography.

Of course, I understand that the racial, social, and economic dimensions along which classical music filters people make its use more problematic. And using it in public spaces is different than small retail shops trying to cultivate a certain kind of atmosphere.

There's more to work out here, but I'm going to make some cookies...

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