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  • Annmarie Throckmorton, M.A.

Music In Public Spaces

Sadly, mood music is in every public space in north America, and has been for a long time: "Formerly Muzak, Mood Media is the global leader in business music, digital signage, on-hold and in-store messaging, scents, mobile and interactive solutions."


North American studies were published years ago that claimed sad mood music in stores makes customers shop more, because they try to comfort themselves by buying more. Recent news reports that China is using loud mood music in public spaces to punish and distract the Islamic Uyghurs of Xinjiang from planning sedition or any other acts against the state. Mood control of the public by music is now worldwide, having gone from marketing tool to governmental weapon within the span of my lifetime.

Today there is nothing personal about entering an American public space, where a differentially-abled door minder may, or may not, shout "Welcome to (such and so)" at you, but the blast of canned mood music that overwhelms you as you step inside is the same for everyone. It says, "You feel bad, buy something."

When I was young, before mood music was invented, all sorts of venues had live music; it was played inside the nicer department stores, along sidewalks downtown, and even family restaurants might hire a pianist or small band for the evening on weekends.

I enjoyed this public music, however, half of the time when I walked in the musicians began playing the slightly sexy Brazilian bossa nova "The Girl from Ipanema"*, and when they did not play that, they played Frank Sinatra's romantic "Strangers In The Night". This public response to my presence was embarrassing because people knew the game and would look around to see which young woman was being saluted. I would glide through as unobtrusively as possible, which would make some people smile kindly. I felt welcomed, approved, and embarrassed.

Is there anywhere today where the public appearance of a young girl is so sweetly acknowledged?

... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...

* "Tall and tan and young and lovely, the girl from Ipanema goes walking And when she passes, each one she passes goes - ah When she walks, she's like a samba that swings so cool and sways so gentle That when she passes, each one she passes goes - ooh (Ooh) But I watch her so sadly, how can I tell her I love her Yes I would give my heart gladly...". Written by composer Antonio Carlos Jobim and the poet Vinícius de Moraes, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 1962.

Caption: Mood Music In Every Public Space

by Annmarie Throckmorton 2019

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