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Using Classical Music As a Form of Social Control 721

Posted by samzenpus
from the feeling-of-dread-in-f-minor dept.
cyberfringe writes "Classical music is being used increasingly in Great Britain as a tool for social control and a deterrent to bad behavior. One school district subjects badly behaving children to hours of Mozart in special detention. Unsurprisingly, some of these youth now find classical music unbearable. Recorded classical music is blared through speakers at bus stops, outside stores, train stations and elsewhere to drive away loitering youth. Apparently it works. Detentions are down, graffiti is reduced, and naughty youth flee because they find classical music repugnant."


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Using Classical Music As a Form of Social Control

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  • A Clockwork Orange (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fear025 (763732) on Thursday March 04, 2010 @02:36AM (#31355098)
    from A Clockwork Orange:
    Alex: No. No! NO! Stop it! Stop it, please! I beg you! This is sin! This is sin! This is sin! It's a sin, it's a sin, it's a sin!
    Dr. Brodsky: Sin? What's all this about sin?
    Alex: That! Using Ludwig van like that! He did no harm to anyone. Beethoven just wrote music!
    Dr. Branom: Are you referring to the background score?
    Alex: Yes.
    Dr. Branom: You've heard Beethoven before?
    Alex: Yes!
    Dr. Brodsky: So, you're keen on music?
    Alex: YES!
    Dr. Brodsky: Can't be helped. Here's the punishment element perhaps.
  • Ask the Artists (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dcollins (135727) on Thursday March 04, 2010 @02:44AM (#31355144) Homepage

    One might ask what the artists would think of this usage?

    Fortunately, we have a pretty similar situation with more current music being used a torture device against Guantanamo detainess, and the rock musicians who protested against that usage:,1518,672177,00.html []

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 04, 2010 @02:55AM (#31355194)

    Where I live there is a notorious corner for crack cocain, prostitution, bloody fights, and anything you can imagine.

    Despite constant city owned surveillance equipment the activity continues.

    The local Diner installed speakers and pipes out jazz, classical, etc. I find it to be kind of nice mood music, for an elevator.

      It has cut down on the drug dealers, kids hanging out, street performers, and the homeless who are normally sitting on the sidewalk asking for change. Apparently the softly played music is enough of an annoyance that they go away.

    Miles Davis - 1
    Bach - 1
    Panoptic sort - 0

  • by hvdh (1447205) on Thursday March 04, 2010 @03:22AM (#31355334)

    Hamburg central station started playing classical music about 10 years ago. The reason was to drive off junkies; there's a saying thay certain drugs in combination with classical music lead to a bad trip.

  • Re:Horrible! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by vxice (1690200) on Thursday March 04, 2010 @03:26AM (#31355348)
    how exactly would they be turned off of it by hearing it while loitering. Presumably they already don't like it since it appears that it drives them away, and without the music they still loiter etc. Now if the music was played before cops came and beat them up to remove them then they disliked the music you would have pavlovian condition yes. But in this case the music already elicits a negative response itself. one might ask what awful state our youth are in that the classics repel them but remember the classics are the pieces of art that you like to say you like and don't necessarily honestly like.
  • by mrmeval (662166) <<mrmeval> <at> <>> on Thursday March 04, 2010 @03:37AM (#31355400) Journal

    It is a human melody played on the flesh of the incompetent. Those too feeble to know good from evil, right from wrong. Graphitist and rapists alongside murderers and thieves. I shall enjoy you trogs being ground to dust. Defilers of space and wisdom that you are.

  • by EEBaum (520514) on Thursday March 04, 2010 @04:02AM (#31355524) Homepage
    If being put in a room by myself with hours of Mozart was a punishment, my teacher's pet self would quite likely have started causing problems.

    I wonder if, to counter that, they would have the same consequence be a punishment to one kid and a reward to another.
  • by martas (1439879) on Thursday March 04, 2010 @04:04AM (#31355528)
    good point, and frankly there's something about the uk that is very baffling to me: they seem to be a very anti-youth and anti-child society. can anyone explain to me why they seem to hate their new generation so much??
  • Does not work. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by NorQue (1000887) on Thursday March 04, 2010 @04:18AM (#31355586)
    I've been living in a flat at a park near a train station (Bielefeld, Germany, if anyone cares) for over a year. All kinds of shady people hung out there day in and day out, drinking tons of alcohol, taking drugs, on sunny days it must've been 150 people and still around 10-20 regulars when it rained. Worst thing, when it rained they used to hang directly before my house because it had a small porch, with the result of having one or two of those dunkards stumble into my house each time I opened the front door because they leaned against it. Well, annoying, but I didn't pay too much and the proximity to everything in inner city was excellent (it basically was at the midst of inner city), so I didn't care.

    One day the town officials decided that it would be a *great* idea to shun away the bums with classic music, so they played Beethoven's Für Elise in an infinite loop. Worst. Idea. Ever. The drunks didn't care at all, nothing in their numbers changed, they even seemed to like it. On a lot of occasions one could hear them loudly bawling the piano refrain melody of the song, but even more of the time you would just see them standing there, eyes all empty and being heavily drugged. They just did not care. I, on the other hand, got pretty annoyed after a few weeks. Even today I can't stand the Für Elise melody, pretty bad, considering it's one of his most popular works. I assume the only people annoyed by that were the sober people who had to pass there every day to go to work, shop, et cetera.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 04, 2010 @05:11AM (#31355840)

    Are you all forgetting that we've been hearing classical music as kids continuously? In cartoons, commercials, at fairs, in movies, etc. It's everywhere. It's been a form of social control for decades, but someone just now decided to put a speaker near a busstop and suddenly it's Big Brother screaming in your ear?

    Oh yes, and you're all way too indignant :D

  • by dugeen (1224138) on Thursday March 04, 2010 @06:08AM (#31356112) Journal
    Trust New Labour to turn Art into a means of oppression.
  • by FreeUser (11483) on Thursday March 04, 2010 @06:08AM (#31356116)

    really don't know about the UK, but is there really such a big problem with "unruly youths" that you have to bombard them with "deterrents" that seem to come from the privy closet of Marquis de Sade?


    (I say this as an American living over here who has to listen to these gangs of kids roaming the neighbourhood all night, smashing things and vandalising the place, and I happen to live in a very good neighbourhood not far from our erstwhile prime minister. It was even worse when I lived on the South Bank.)

    I don't know what happened in UK society (it was obviuosly before I lived here)...hell, I don't understand what went wrong in American society to bring our fascist right-wing wackos out like postnuclear cockroaches, so I certainly cannot begin to divine what happened on this side of the pond. Certainly basic politeness, for which the UK was known for so long, has all but vanished, replaced by belligerance and in-your-face animosity as a default greeting that makes us Americans look downright polite by comparison (go figure). Whether it is down to this, or some more fundamental cultural misfiring I really don't know. What I do know, from personal experience, is that there are a bunch of kids over here (a small minority, but still more than enough) that are completely out of control and downright dangerous, and unlike the US, they don't stay tucked away in "the bad part of town", they roam everywhere and wreak havoc all over the place. If you're extremely unlucky, you own a house worth less than your mortgage in an area they like to roam, in which case you're pretty much finished (thank [deity] I didn't buy during the boom years).

    Playing classical music is hardly out of the Marquis de Sade playbook, and if it pushes the yobs on down the road, then I'm all for it. Beats having the police around to crack heads...which was Chicago's solution to a similar problem.

  • Re:Horrible! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Alarindris (1253418) on Thursday March 04, 2010 @06:29AM (#31356206)
    Not to worry, churches have been doing it to them as well for quite some time. Trying to introduce my friends to classical music, they ALWAYS say "Aw man, why are we listening to church music?" What's even funnier is that it's only the religious ones who say that.
  • Re:Horrible! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sique (173459) on Thursday March 04, 2010 @06:46AM (#31356292) Homepage

    There was a study done by the german computer magazine c't [] some years ago.
    Result: While all participants were music semiprofessionals, their rate of correct attribution to the right source was only slightly above random chance, with the best one being someone with impaired hearing and thus a different reception than a normal person, who was pretty good in spotting the MP3. With higher bitrates for MP3, they even got worse than random chance.

  • Always loved that (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Thursday March 04, 2010 @07:55AM (#31356588) Journal

    You can talk about classical music to kids until you are blue in the face, but "when the cannon goes off" tends to be the seller :P

    Oh, proper musical experts might scoff at it, but it sells the stuff to the crowd, and who knows, they might sit through the rest because of it. It also makes death metal seem tame. Biting the head of a chicken vs artillery.

  • by Clover_Kicker (20761) <> on Thursday March 04, 2010 @08:43AM (#31356820)

    I doubt it, they don't want to repel the "olds".

    A local coffee shop has done this for years. They're a little too close to the high school for comfort, so they installed a speaker outside playing classical/light jazz.

    The people who actually want to buy coffee don't mind the music, and now they don't have to elbow their way thru clumps of teenagers standing in front of the door.

    I'm not so happy about using it in detention, but I'm sure if I was a high school teacher I'd flip out and strangled someone on the first week, so I probably shouldn't throw stones.

  • by ZeroExistenZ (721849) on Thursday March 04, 2010 @08:44AM (#31356828)

    I like classical music, if this was done in MY country, I'd make it my mission to destroy any and all of these classical music blaring speakers.

    I agree. It took me also a bit of maturing to enjoy classical music, the complexity in it and what it moves in a person. To me it's really like human excellence...

    Making it into a "weapon", creating a generation of yought seeing it as a weapon, load it with alot of negative association, it'll destroy your classical appreciation, or value attributed to it, in your next generation and hence you'll eventually whipe out the record of it, don't you think?

    There's alot of art, history and knowledge lost in history because of lack of appreciation or value attributed to it.

  • Re:Does not work. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ascari (1400977) on Thursday March 04, 2010 @08:45AM (#31356836)
    Of course it doesn't work. Nobody can tolerate Muzak, but people haven't stopped riding elevators. Nobody likes low-budget covers of old beatles songs or barry manilow, but we still shop at grocery stores. We still stay on hold on phones in spite of the "music". Why? Because our brains know how to tune out things that are distracting and irrelevant to the primary motivation of the moment. The only reason this scheme "works" in isolated cases like TFA suggests is that it was presented to the "victims" as a form of punishment or deterrent. Kind of like a placebo effect.
  • Re:Horrible! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jellomizer (103300) on Thursday March 04, 2010 @10:06AM (#31357482)

    Kids in general hate classical music.

    As they don't have the listening skills yet to enjoy it.

    Non-Orchestral music which is popular today is rather light in texture. Vocal, Guitar(s), Bass, Drums vs. a full orchestra Violins, Violas, Cellos, Contrabass (for a string orchestra popular during the classical period) expenanded to Trumpits, Tubas, French Hones, Trombones, Flues, Oboes, Clarinetist, Timpani, and a variety of percussion having a much layered and complex set of works.

    The "Rock Band" Layout was based on the Minimalistic Movement of having just enough to do what you need. In many ways making music easier to listen to as there isn't much going on and you can focus on the lyrics, orchestral layout focuses on the music and you can have really stupid lyrics and the song will still be good.

  • by Rary (566291) on Thursday March 04, 2010 @10:07AM (#31357492)

    They're probably repelling people by playing it really loudly and with horrible quality. Classical music has a lot of high notes and when played poorly it's a lot like listening to nails on a chalkboard.

    That's exactly what the 7-11 that all the teenagers used to hang out in front of back in the late 80's where I grew up in Canada used to do. This is nothing new.

  • by digitig (1056110) on Thursday March 04, 2010 @10:26AM (#31357652)

    We've had socialised health care since 1948. State funded youth programs came much later. So we managed to pay for socialised health care without any impact at all on state-funded youth programs because they didn't exist at the time.

    Actually, most youth clubs and activities were organised by the private and charity sector -- Scogui, Boy's Brigade, random clubs in church halls, and so on. Those organisations are all feeling the economic pinch in the current recession, and a lot of them had religious connections and have been hit by declining religious involvement. I'd be interested to hear your theories as to how the worldwide recession and decline in religion are caused by UK socialised healthcare.

  • by Hoi Polloi (522990) on Thursday March 04, 2010 @11:47AM (#31358456) Journal

    I just read a study (sorry, don't remember source) that studied people's impression of crime vs the actual crime rate. People in the 70s, when crime rates were high, actually felt that crime was LESS of a problem vs today when crime rates are lower. People seem to exaggerate problems more the smaller they get, like having a grain of sand in your eye.

"Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company." -- Mark Twain