Bus station classics

8th April 2012 | Daily Life, Musings | 1 comment

More depressing reports about Bach, Vivaldi, Handel and Mozart being used to deter gangs of young people from hanging around at bus stations and the like.

Once again it’s not clear what is really being said about classical music.  On the one hand, transport bosses say their older passengers appreciate its ‘soothing atmosphere’. On the other, they say it will deter ‘gangs of youths’ who will re-schedule their loitering rather than have to listen to it. Presumably this isn’t because of how it actually sounds, but because of what it represents.

Bach, Handel, Mozart and Vivaldi would all be horrified if they knew their music was being used to drive youngsters away. Luckily for them, in their day there wasn’t the separation between ‘classical’ and ‘popular’ music that there is now.  They used the musical language of the time, and so did buskers on the street and musicians in cafes. Mozart famously found that tunes from his opera ‘The Marriage of Figaro’ had been taken up by barrel-organ players in Prague when he went there a few months later.

It’s sobering to reflect that Mozart, Bach etc would never have encountered the silver-haired audience whom today we regard as the ‘core audience’ for classical music. When life expectancy in Europe was around 30, there was obviously no such thing as an entire audience of people in their fifties, sixties and seventies. Nor was there ever a silver-haired Mozart.


1 Comment

  1. peter

    Hmmmm. Life expectancy of 30 was the life expectancy for a new-born baby. Lots of people died as babies or as young children. If you lived to 18, your life expectancy was much higher than 30, more like 65 or 70 in the 18th century. Mozart died young, but look at how many other composers of his era did not.


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