Turn that racket off!
Saturday 27 October, 1.30pm until 3.00pm, Seminar Space Battle for Music

Music is everywhere, but do we really listen? With high-tempo dance music in shops and computerised Mozart as we wait for a phonecall to be connected, it seems impossible to escape the relentless soundtrack to modern life. Indeed, with shopping centres piping classical music to scare off hoodies, and bored kids blasting tinny R&B from their phones on public transport, music often seems to be a weapon, used to mark out territory rather than played for the joy of it. Some argue that we are forgetting how to listen properly, and that ever-present jingles and mood music are contributing to ever-shrinking attention spans. Many champions of classical music even hate Classic FM, while MTV is accused of turning music into wallpaper.

Should we put a stop to muzak, and switch off that radio? Should we learn to relish silence, the better to appreciate real music? Or is this objection to ubiquitous music just a form of snobbery? Do people simply get used to unwanted noise, and listen attentively when there’s something worth listening to? Is it time to turn it off, or is it just a question of quality over quantity?


Professor Colin Lawson
director, Royal College of Music; period clarinettist; author, Mozart: Clarinet Concerto and Brahms: Clarinet Quintet
Professor Stuart Sim
professor of critical theory, University of Sunderland; author, Manifesto for Silence: Confronting the Politics and Culture of Noise
Bill Drummond
artist; founder, No Music Day, a five year plan to promote debate about our ever-shifting relationship with music
Cecilia Wee
arts broadcaster, Resonance FM; writer on contemporary notated and experimental music
Dr Claudia Molitor
composer; director, Soundwaves Festival; participant in spnm's 2006/7 Adopt a Composer scheme
Dolan Cummings
associate fellow, Academy of Ideas; author, That Existential Leap: a crime story (forthcoming from Zero Books)

 Produced by

Dolan Cummings associate fellow, Academy of Ideas; author, That Existential Leap: a crime story (forthcoming from Zero Books)
Cara Bleiman teacher, Arnhem Wharf Primary School

Sound, city and song (or, iPod, therefore iAm), Sarah Snider

 Recommended readings

Boy in a bubble
By constantly wiring ourselves up to our iPods, are we becoming oblivious to our surroundings?
Gabriel Sherman, Guardian, 23 September 2004

The soundtrack of your life
'"Our biggest competitor," a member of Muzak's marketing department told me, "is silence"'
David Owen, New Yorker, 10 April 2006

It’s music to their ears but a nuisance to us
News report on the aural scourge of public transport; tinny music played through a mobile phone
Auslan Cramb, Telegraph, 7 December 2006

Muzak, Background music, and anti-noise
A sound designed to be heard but not listened to is everywhere mediating our relationship with the world
Mike Brown, EST, Issue Four, Summer 1993

The Recording Angel: Music, Records and Culture from Aristotle to Zappa
A classic account of how the changing medium has fundamentally altered the experience of listening to music
Evan Eisenberg, Yale University Press, 2005

recommended by spiked

The Making of Mozart
Dolan Cummings, 1 February 2006

Session partners

in association with