Right alongside the old urban legend that listening to Mozart would boost your intelligence comes a new proposition: that the "Haffner" is also good for getting loitering "youfs" to move on from where they aren't wanted.
Co-op, a chain of grocery stores, is experimenting with playing classical music outside its shops, to stop youths from hanging around and intimidating customers. It seems to work well. Staff have a remote control and “can turn the music on if there's a situation developing and they need to disperse people”, says Steve Broughton of Co-op.
The most extensive use of aural policing so far, though, has been in underground stations. Six stops on the Tyneside Metro currently pump out Haydn and Mozart to deter vandals and loiterers, and the scheme has been so successful that it has spawned imitators. After a pilot at Elm Park station on the London Underground, classical music now fills 30 other stations on the network. The most effective deterrents, according to a spokesman for Transport for London, are anything sung by Pavarotti or written by Mozart.
Needless to say, I don't believe that such measures will have any long-term positive impact in terms of deterring menacing teenagers, whatever other benefits playing Mozart might bestow on shoppers and Underground travellers. If anything, I have a feeling that it'll probably encourage a few punks to simply use the music as a background score to their misbehavior, a la "A Clockwork Orange."
One other thing I can't help asking myself: why is it that people keep casting about for miraculous powers that the music of Mozart and Beethoven might possess? What superstitious impulse compels people to fall for such nonsense? I suspect that it's the same reactionary tendency that pushes certain individuals to assert that the decline of Western civilization was fore-ordained once schoolchildren stopped having to study the Nicomachean Ethics in the original Greek.
[Via Kevin Drum.]