This article is short enough that I can put the whole thing here. I got the inspiration to look at and think about the commodification of music this way from several sources, one of which is very exciting to me and will result in free food. Lori works at Magleby's Fresh, a medium-food restaurant in Provo (medium food = not fast food, but not really a sit down place with servers who take you order at the table either ["slow food"]). The workers have grown very tired of the soundtrack - a playlist of 76 songs that repeats at least twice during a typical shift. I told Lori that I thought it would be fun to make them a new playlist, and she told her manager, who is all for the idea and will give me some gift certificates if I can make them something good. Now that I'm working on it, I've realized that I am recreating the place in the process - what people hear in Magleby's will influence how they feel and see the restaurant. If I put a bunch of punk and metal music, there would be a serious disconnect between the food, the customers, and the ambience. But if I put a bunch of sweet jazz standards and some fun, familiar, and rather low-key contemporary music, the place will start to make associations that elevate the mood the restaurant owners are looking for. So, I am, in a very real sense, doing an experiment in creating place through music, which relates 1 to 1 with my project. This article backs up my claims, and shows a contemporary writer's view (as opposed to a scholarly view) of how music and place relate. This is more germane to my purpose, as I don't really give a rat's behind what scholars think.
I'd like to propose a new rating system for restaurants, cafes, and bars. Instead of the tired old star system, or some highly poetic, but thoroughly individual review of how the food or drinks taste and are served, my proposal is to rate all public locales by the music they play.
This rating system is based on the belief that music does not merely fill space and time, but shapes space and time. In other words, whether as foreground or background, ambient music is like the soundtrack of our experience, profoundly affecting how we feel about and relate to a place.
My system does not imply anything about the style of the music. There are plenty of places where screeching, screaming, thumping, pounding music is entirely appropriate and welcome, and which can therefore play this music with complete integrity for the delight of its customers. A dance club playing dance music seems like an excellent marriage of music and place.
The same music, however, played at the corner café, where people gather to talk, to read, and to write blogs, and where screeching, screaming, thumping, pounding music is played primarily to keep the staff from falling asleep over their cappuccino machines -- this would be an example, in my opinion, of irreconcilable differences between music and place. The music prevents you from enjoying the place.
My rating system, therefore, describes the relationship between music and place in terms of the emotional communication between the two. It has the following gradations, from best to worst:
1. Intuitive. ("You always know how I'm feeling!")
2. Friendly. ("Um, okay. I can see your point.") 3. Neutral. ("I'm sorry, did you say something?")
4. Obnoxious. ("You don't care how I feel!")
It's a very personal kind of rating system, I admit. But I believe that if enough people subscribe to it, the demand for sensitive musical choices in public locations everywhere will increase, and life will improve for everyone.
One more category needs to be mentioned. If we understand the relationship between music and place in emotional terms, then this final category has many qualities of the best: it recognizes the moods and functions of a place, while seeking to delight and please the customers. But these qualities are passive-aggressive: they are used with ulterior motives, most often to sell you something. This final category, therefore, is:
5. Manipulative. ("You say you care, but I don't trust you!")
Two kinds of location define this category for me. Chain bookstores, especially during December (is there a limit to the number of times one can hear "Winter Wonderland" before suffering permanent damage?) and a certain ubiquitous "café."