Alert: Piped music in Chelsea and Westminster A&E!

Alarm is growing over plans by Chelsea and Westminster Hospital A&E to introduce piped music into their Accident and Emergency Department. Brian Eno is to bring his ‘ambient landscapes’ into the department in an attempt to ‘calm distressed patients’.This is part of a general refurbishment aimed at making A&E more patient friendly. The hospital may be well-intentioned may be  but the results are likely to prove very unpleasant for many people.

Eno first produced his  ‘ambient music for airports’ – which he likes to distinguish from other types of muzac  - nearly 40 years ago. He claims it can ‘accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting’. Whether you find such oxymoronic ambitions admirable or absurd, you may not want to have to hear any music in the hours spent waiting to be seen. Patients in such situations make the archetypal captive audience and can suffer particular stress – the reason Pipedown is trying to get a bill through Parliament to ban piped  music and televisions in hospitals. (Elsewhere we rely on  sweet persuasion, but people perhaps  immobilised on a stretcher or in a bed are in no position to argue reasonably, and certainly cannot leave for another, quieter hospital.)

The hospital managers appear to be among the many people who have fallen for the piped music industry’s propaganda, this time in a fashionable wrapper.

Write to the hospital’s Chief Executive Tony Bell to tell him that more people dislike piped music than like it – as impartial polls reveal –  at katie.drummond-dunn@chelwest.nhs.uk

 

 

North Korean style ‘research’ about piped music’s benefits

North Korea, the world’s last true Stalinist dictatorship, has a strange rival in producing polls to show that 99.9% of people love and support the glorious regime. It is the piped music industry! This too regularly publishes surveys quoting  figures from its supposedly ‘scientific research’  that muzac is adored by, say, 95% of  customers. Such research, sponsored by organisations involved directly or otherwise in producing piped music, is deeply suspect.

A recent statement about how everybody loves muzac comes from John Brodie, Chief Executive of Scotmid, which has introduced piped music into some Co-op stores.  In response to protests, Brodie said that Scotmid had research to show that customers like background music:  ‘We have also read a number of reports about the impact of music in public places and in one particular summary it mentions two key elements – “people rank music as more difficult to live without than sports, movies and newspapers” and “music enhances wellbeing amongst customers and employees in workplaces”.’

Note what is being suggested here. Because most people state they value music highly – which is no surprise – they must therefore love piped music. Such distortion of people’s real reactions to unwanted music comes from  Heartbeats International, ‘a global brand communication agency with offices in Stockholm, Tokyo and New York. Our mission is to help clients worldwide to use the power of music and sound to stand out in today’s crowded marketplace and increase customer engagement’.

All such agencies have so strong a vested interest in persuading stores/hotels/restaurants  to play piped music that it seems odd any balanced person takes their findings seriously.  The Co-op, like Marks and Spencer, is a chain that is fast losing touch with customer’ real wants. Instead, it prefers pseudo-scientific findings produced by just a couple of academics. These much quoted men are lavishly funded by… the piped music industry. Coincidence? Almost certainly not, although the academics concerned no doubt believe their own ‘research’. Both the Co-op and M&S are in deep trouble commercially.  This is no coincidence either.

Television muzac campaign

Loud, often inappropriate background music on television documentaries – which can become foreground music –  annoys many viewers. The BBC is probably the worst offender (partly because it is the biggest producer of documentaries), but it is showing signs of starting to listen.  After uproar greeted a new series of Brian Cox’s science programmes, where pounding music drowned the professor’s illuminating words, the BBC amended the sound track on later programmes. This shows what can be done.

Richard Hill-Brown has started a sub-campaign against this music. Do support him  richardhb@btinternet.com

Or complain directly to the BBC – it’s best to telephone, as all calls are logged – on 03700 100 222

QUIET NEW YORK published

Cover of Quiet New York

Siobhan Wall has just published Quiet New York,  a guide to quiet places of many sorts, from museums to cafés, from galleries to parks to libraries. Each of the 150 entries has a wonderful photograph, often in colour, and an evocative description.  Published by Frances Lincoln, this is the fourth of her Quiet City Guides (after Amsterdam, London and Paris.)

Why music really does get louder as you get older

Older people actually hear music as louder, new reports show. Presbycusis, an age-related hearing problem, means that older people find background music drowns out conversation even at levels younger people do not notice.

Age-related hearing loss, called presbycusis, is characterised by loss of hair cells in the base of the cochlea, or inner ear, that are attuned to capture and transmit high-frequency sounds,

says Dr. Anil K. Lalwani, director of otology, neurotology and skull-base surgery at Columbia University Medical Center, New York.

Loss of high-frequency hearing leads to deterioration in the ability to distinguish words in conversation. Additionally, any noise in the environment leads to even greater loss in clarity of hearing. Contrary to expectation, presbycusis is also associated with sensitivity to loud noises.

see http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/05/science/why-at-70-is-it-harder-to-hear-conversations-yet-music-is-too-loud.html?

 

As the overall population ages, governments and businesess should take notice.

Best Quiet Corner Competition

Julian Lloyd Webber and Prunella Scales will be among the judges of the Best Quiet Corner Competition in Autumn 2014.

Each category of place – pub, shop, restaurant, supermarket, bank, hotel etc – will be judged according to the reports now being solicited, and the Best in Category will be announced at a ceremony later in the year.