Andrew Waggoner’s recent NewMusicBox essay deals with the  perils of entering most public spaces these days due to  the onslaught of pumped-in music,  most of it monotonously pop and largely negligible.   There’s an undertone of anger in the piece the author readily acknowledges,  in that we’re  not able to change the situation – so we have to duck out, feeling somewhat impotent, so as to recover  the quiet  necessary for hearing inside one’s head.

I’ve also written about this, along with  other present-day vexations for a composer, over the past half-dozen years.   (Most recently:  Imaging the Composer Today, published this month in the IAWM Journal,  a small tweaking of the Keynote address given last fall at the  College Music Society national conference.)  My take though, is a bit different:

I consider it a strength move to boycott the places which are the worst offenders. And I believe it’s an act of confidence to create for oneself  personal spaces  where serenity, contemplation and the required think-environment  — so necessary to beginning a new piece – can prevail.

Lutoslawski observed “People whose sensibility is destroyed by music in trains, airports, lifts, cannot concentrate on a Beethoven quartet.”  Largely  true. But even as we bemoan the diminishment of the capacity for active listening en masse,  we do,  each, take steps to  preserve that capacity for ourselves. 

One Response to “Craving Silence”
  1. davidcoll says:

    i remember hearing that in order to reduce loitering in large public spaces such as train stations, classical music is played in otherwise music-less spaces…immediately people leave that space and go somewhere else.

    See, classical music still is powerful!

    but more seriously i have to say that for the mostpart classical music has been for a smaller crowd, so why not just stay comfortable with that? as long as its affordable for everyone at the same time….oh, now theres a problem..

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