I wonder if the ubiquitousness of Muzak has had a negative impact on how we respond to music in a more formal setting…concert hall or church.
I know people tend to roll their eyes when they hear or read “When I was a child…” but I’m going to say it anyway. When I was a child, I remember that there was a difference between the music we heard on the radio and the music we heard in the concert hall and church…and there was a difference in the way we reacted to it. Radio music was (at least sometimes) background music–music we talked over, unless there was a song you really wanted to listen to (like “Big Bad John”). When we went to a concert or church, though, we made a special effort to go someplace out of our ordinary activities–and we treated the music differently as well. It was something special to listen to.
And then came Muzak.
It was everywhere! While initially it was in elevators, soon you couldn’t go anywhere without some sort of music playing…restaurants, stores, elevators…
And music was no longer something “special.” Instead, sometimes it became annoying, because it disrupted our conversations–and sometimes we had to speak louder to be heard over it.
I think we’re seeing the unfortunate results of that today.
In concert halls, there are times when you can hear individuals talk during a piece. Not just whisper something quietly to their neighbor about what they’re hearing–but carrying on complete conversations with a friend on their cell phone! Do they stop to think about how they’re disrupting the concert experience for others? or the disrespect they’re showing towards the composer and the performers?
And church… The prelude, rather than providng a means for the congregation to enter into the spirit of the service, unfortunately has often become church Muzak–music to visit by. And if the poor musician has happened to select a piece that builds to a climax, so does the volume of the congregational visiting. What about the postlude? Again, rather than seeing it (along with the prelude) as the “bookends” for the worshiping experience…the “stuff” that holds the service together…it’s seen as music to leave by, visiting about lunch, whatever seasonal game is on…
Is it time to do away with Muzak? I’d like to–but unfortunately it’s taken such a hold in our society that I don’t think it’s possible to dig it out.
Perhaps it’s up to those of us for whom music is soul-nourishing, whether it’s in concert or church, to set the example…to educate by word and deed…to reclaim music as something to respect and honor.