Just back from a successful trip to the Echternach Festival in Luxembourg. We played in a very pretty but wildly over-resonant church whose acoustics were only somewhat subdued by the presence of the audience. During the rehearsal, when the church was empty, we counted a five-second echo. Nevertheless the audience for our concert was extremely warm and appreciative.
My hotel room overlooked the 18th century cobbled square with its fountain, town hall, cafes with wicker chairs and tables on the cobbles, and baskets of flowers trailing from the balconies. My nice old hotel blended perfectly into this scene, except for the canned music playing in all the public spaces.
I was up early and had breakfast by myself, so I had nothing to distract me from this music, no doubt meant to lull me but actually having the opposite effect, because it stopped me from feeling at one with my historical surroundings. After I while I stopped watching the rain bounce off the cobbles outside and focused on the canned music. It was evidently composed to some evil formula which kept it below the threshhold of interest, event or memorability. Singers meandered up and down the same few notes with artificial cheeriness. The pulse never varied, the rhythms were stupidly predictable, there were no key-changes, and all the phrases were the same length. It seemed to say, ‘Don’t look around you! Just relax into this purchasing opportunity.’ And then louder music started up in the square outside. It was market day, and the stallholders had installed blaring pop music to whet people’s appetites.
The other day, we got into a taxi in Berlin and the same kind of music was playing. We asked the driver to turn it off. He said, ‘Whenever I have musicians in the cab they always ask me to turn off the music. That seems funny to me.’