Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Your Experiences

I am starting to compile a comprehensive guide to places and spaces with good or bad 'music design'. We have all been in places which sound totally awful, with bad music played at loud volumes or the clatter of cutlery ruining our experience. Likewise, we have been in places which sound good, where we feel relaxed and comfortable. If you have any memories or comments from such experiences and would like to share them, please post them below and we can build a guide to musical environments around the world.

Please post the following details:
Name of Location,
Place of Location,
Your experience - good or bad music design, what it made you do, how it could be better.


Brian Harvey said...

Original Shoe Company, Glasgow.

Music ranging from hard house to even harder house was down right offensive. The shop was empty and no wonder. Bass too high menat the shop was more like a club than shoe shop, I turned around a left. Next door in Schuh (their main rivals), the shop was packed and the music design was much more subtle.

Anonymous said...

This morning, I dialed in to a conference call. The other participants had not logged in yet, so I was subjected to muzak. I put it on speakerphone and turned it way down...

I felt pretty neutral about it at the time, but your site made me think how we just accept lame music all the time when we're waiting for calls / service.

I think I would have much preferred it if there was no music at all--just rainforest sound effects.

I can just hear the macaws calling now.

Ian G.

Mr Hammond said...

Mr Harvey,

In your endeavour to improve the monotomy of life from unbearable to barely bearable, I issue you with the challenge of launching an assault upon all bars/pubs that insist on playing music (of varying types, though mostly undistinguishable trashy dance/hard house) at such a high sound level that it completely defeats the point of ever meeting in the establishment to chat with your chums. It makes me so very angry.

Mr Hammond

ps Did you enjoyed Gara-f*cking-baldis on Saturday night? I didn't hear a word you, or anyone, said.

Anonymous said...

I really wish that venues would start incorporating good music design into the very beginning of their plans. I absolutely detest that most pubs, bars and restaurants force you to shout to anyone not sat within an inch of you. If only planners/designers thought about this they might attract more customers wanting to spend money in a place where they can chat and wind down after work instead of fighting to be heard. Many venues neglect to think about the fact that bare walls and wooden floors force sound to bounce back and forth; conversations get lost, throats get sore and sometimes even tempers get frayed.

Can anyone give me an insight into what the business sense behind not thinking about the above is?

Anonymous said...

"This morning, I dialed in to a conference call. The other participants had not logged in yet, so I was subjected to muzak. I put it on speakerphone and turned it way down..."

On a similar note, what if you're listening to music on your computer and decide to check out gig dates/news of you favourite band on their website and the song you are listening to is mauled by the one which automatically starts playing on the website's home page? I find it quite annoying sometimes. Surely you should be able to 'opt out' somehow from audio on websites automatically being played, no?

Mo Readman said...

How's this for an example of inappropriate background music? My husband and I got married at Edinburgh Registry Office accompanied by the "Hill Street Blues" soundtrack. As our guests came forward to congratulate us after the ceremony, the track playing was "Do you know where you're going to?" by (I think) Diana Ross.

We had intended to make our own CD for the wedding, but with a million other things to think about we hadn't quite got around to it. I do think the Registry Office might have been expected to give some thought to music, though ...

Duncatron said...

I think that British people need to learn to complain more. If you go into a bar or restaurant where the music is ridiculously loud and politely ask them to turn it down, you're looked at like you're an SS officer by the staff, and all the other customers embarrasedly hide their faces. How pathetic! It's as if having to endure hours of revoltingly vulgar R'N'B so called 'music' is just somehting that we must accept in life - rather like the fact that we will all eventually die. We need some more sensible fuss-pots around...the ones that already exist waste too much time complaining about road accidents...

James Fraser said...

I think music should be banned in clubnights. It would be much better if people wore their iPods and danced around to their own tunes. And those who wanted to talk could have a nice chat and relax to the lovely sound of scuffing feet.

Denise said...

Went on the slopes at Xscape recently and was v v rusty. Really could have been doing with some up beat tunes to get me going. Instead, I was subjected to the most horrific covers of terrible 80's tunes. These would have been bad enough featuring the original artist but the 'karaoke' versions were dismal.

Anonymous said...

Ok, I am waiting to speak to some tit at work and he has just put me on hold - probably just to speak to his maw to tell her what he wants for tea - and here I am waiting to argue with the prick as he has been a chump all week. I am fizzing with anger before I call him and I am intent of screwing him out of a considerable sum of money for his uselessness (twat tax). Anyway - I am on hold and they play F**KING ABBA!! I mean really! Its a professional call to a big, modern business and I get "Waterloo" - I was so busy laughing I forgot the torrent of abuse I had planned. Ruined by day. Bloody Abba.......


Anonymous said...

My muzak hate is kids with phone that play music blasting it out in public places. i listen to music on my mp3 player all the time and would rather not have to turn it up to drown out the din of just jack or some other guff being blasted through a tinny speaker on a bus.

Heidi said...

We can choose to walk around with noise cancelling headphones all day with our personal playlist, but this seems all to close to walking around with your eyes shut. We may have little choice in the sounds that bombard us on a daily basis but I disagree that we aught to opt out all the time for the dreaded generic mp3 player (I wont go giving apple any advertising in my posts!).

Personally I like to keep my ears open for new sounds and tunes, perhaps that's my short attention span or a sign of a creative mind, but I want to challenge any music prejudices I hold by keeping an open mind as possible to all I hear.

That said it’s often a painful road due to the complete lack of thought companies put in to audio that greets their customers. If I don’t like a shops choice in music I always complain or leave.

Years ago I worked at the coffee chain Costa (don’t ask how awful that was) and I took it upon myself to try to programme some music suitable for the shop. The issues of quality and set up of speakers, other workers personal taste and the CD changer made me soon give up. Never mind the ambiance for customers, staff health and safety aught to be addressed.

Brevitate said...

Few days ago I went to Blackwell's to look for a book. They were playing some very loud, young band music. I considered complaining, but I just left immediately after not finding the book I was looking for. Within a different soundscape I would probably have browsed around and bought something else... The whole shop felt cheap, too brightly lit and decorated loudly, but the music was really the opposite of what you would like in a bookshop.

Another bad experience was in my local Tesco's, were some shop assistant has placed a radio on the floor of an aisle! The radio is tuned on some cheap station with the sound distorted by having the volume too high...

Ling Lee said...

Kowloon, Chinese Restaurant, Berlin
I mostly get annoyed by the music at work.
At the Chinese Restaurant where I used to work, my boss sometimes played really fast and hectic chinese music.
The other thing, concerns the waiters, we were playing the same tapes over and over again, that doesn't make work easier at all.

Office, Edinburgh
I still have the same experience in the office I work. We play all the tunes in a loop or i start clicking around, searching for the suitable song. It is really annoying when you cannot just keep working. And when I switch the music off, then its boring as well.

various bars, everywhere
Most bars still don't understand to turn the music a little bit down, so that people don't have to shout. I mostly try to avoid bars which play too loud music which is a shame because they could be actually quite nice.

Costa Coffee, London
I was actually really surprised when I walked in. I was looking for a place just to get a quick coffee. To my surprise, they play nice funk/jazz tunes. I ended up staying and having lunch there, because i thought it is actually nicer than walking around with my coffee.

I went to Rotterdam for the International Film Festival. Wherever I went, if Thai Restaurant, Oriental Restaurant or bar, they all played the suitable music for their venue in the perfect volume. I didn't feel the pressure of leaving as quick as possible.

Alex Mattholie said...

Chinese people love 'renao' - liveliness even if this is a collision of TV, pop music, loud chat, loud eating noises, with continuous roaring/clattering sound from the kitchen. Though perhaps a complete contradicton, even decimation of any music design concept, I quite enjoy the chaotic and unrestrained character of it all even this is at the expense of my well being!

Marie said...

I would say one of the best places I have ever been to that gets the music design spot on every time, would be a bar called Mojo in Leeds. North Bar and The Wardrobe were always a close second. If you ever are down there, definitely pay these places a visit. Mojo is a tiny space, adorned with images of music icons and had the best ambience. The music was the main feature of the bar – bar staff would select songs rather than albums and generally would manage to get the crowd highly excited & singing along to the tracks! If anyone is in Leeds, pay these places a visit - Mojo on a Friday night has got to be my favourite bar experience in the world. I now live in Glasgow - I've still not found anything to take its place in terms of music quality.

Brian Harvey said...

Doocot, The Lighthouse, Glasgow

The place was very quiet when I went in for a coffee and staff were playing about with the music (on what looked to be an ipod) when I arrived. They were playing some minimal techno which was obviously not what they were told was appropriate. What was worse though, was when they saw they had customers, they put on the most bland selection of pop/rnb that I guess was meant to create a suitable ambience. Problem was it just didn't fit with what is a classy cafe/restaurant in one of the most forward thinking art and design centres in the UK.

Anonymous said...

I took this from, interesting reading -

If its of any interest, i was very close to doing my Architectural Psycholgy assignment [for diploma] on the way in which the ipod has disassociated sound and music with performance, experience and place - we now have beethoven on the tube, its not about the concert hall, jazz isn't about smokey bars, and the train isn't about that clickety-click "this is the night mail" (WH Auden/GPO), the bus isn't about bustle and traffic and people. Its like Ipod/walkman have us all in bubbles, to the detriment both of the music (IMHO) and the experience of place, =architecture.

Anonymous said...

"My muzak hate is kids with phone that play music blasting it out in public places. i listen to music on my mp3 player all the time and would rather not have to turn it up to drown out the din of just jack or some other guff being blasted through a tinny speaker on a bus."

The problem is their cheap headphones. I think a law should be brought in so that cheap, shitty headphones are banned!

Marie said...

"Brevitate", I agree with your sentiments completely! Borders, early evening on Tuesday...I was trying to get inspiration for holidays but was too distracted by Mika's Grace Kelly & worse still, they went on to play the whole album! Instead of feeling tempted to browse, I was tempted to leave...and did!

Helen said...

Pitcher and Piano
Newcastle Quayside
Tuesday night

I went to this bar after the Joanna Newsom concert as it is in prime location for after-concert drinks in Newcastle (one of the few so close) and was subjected to exceedingly cheesy tunes that you could imagine in a cheap student bar (eg Kylie "Cant get you out of my head). The bar as I said is in a prime location on the quayside with nice views and is decorated tastefully. The music was inappropriate and ruined the atmosphere.

Callum said...

Hey Bri. Si and myself had a pretty bad music experience the other day. We'd been for a walk in the Pentlands and, after taking in the fresh air and appreciating being out in the open hills, we thought we desrved soup and a scone, so we went to the Flotterstone Inn (near Easter Howgate). The room was decorated in a traditional style and seemed like the sort of place you'd go after a jaunt in the hills. However, they played the full length of an Anastasia album full volume- what is the thinking behind that?! Some Scottish music might have been more suitable.

Mantrid Switchdoctor said...

I fix Apple gear & synths, so I should be happy with iPod /mp3 players...wrong!...I had to sit in a train compartment with two folks-one playing hip-hop and the other competing with headphone volume with some 240bpm hard-house..40 mins later I was hoping their batteries would run out but no...I HATE those headphones!

Like so many of the other contributers, I have a Fear & Loathing of hold music and ring-tones-Vivaldi and Bach (whom I normally love), Coldplay (whom I normally hate) and
BAD jazz are the worst offenders, though there also should be a special part of hell reserved for everyone who contributed to the Crazy Frog..the makers, the sellers AND the buyers.

I once worked in an Apple repair centre workshop where a self-appointed music "censor" ruled there be no music in the workshop at all unless it was his every day we were all subjected to Beat 106 on this crappy wee radio which meant we got the same Mariah Carey..Beyonce...Coldplay...Sugababes on the hour, every hour...often in the same order...and sounding more like a wasp in a tin than it usually would.

If you have ever been 'detained' in a lift (or it may have been a monorail carriage) in the Merryhill Shopping complex near Wolverhampton with Chris DeBurgh, Vonda Shepherd and more recently, the truly-awful
K.T.Tunstall warbling through these bloody awful speakers usually used to tell you the lift or monorail is broken, then you are fortunate indeed.

...and I'm with Brian on his R'n'B and other comments & Heidi on her mp3 player observations (sorry about mentioning Apple...oops, just did it again!).

Iain said...

Name of Location: Virtually every high-street shop or supermarket.
Place of Location: Anywhere.
Date: 1 October (earlier each year) till 25 December.
Your experience: Awful looped tapes of xmas music - Slade, Cliff Richard etc. - played in almost any shop you go into. Makes me want to exit the store immediately - retailers take note! While I can see the case for appropriate music at a sensible volume in some circumstances, I firmly feel all xmas music in shops or public areas should be banned! Maybe there's enough time to enact this for Xmas 2007?

katybl said...

Brixton Station: London Underground are piping classical music into 'problem' stations on the Victoria Line. Now I quite like this but it has sparked a bit of a debate in the TIme Out Letters Page roughly because it sits so at odds with the music being played around the area (actually outdside the station), what most people in that area would listen too out of choice (probably), and is it an example of high culture being used to quell dissent, and is that racist etc etc.
But it is music forced upon you, and can you really differentiate between that example and the youths on the buses with their poor quality Akon, 50cent etc squeaking out of their mobiles? I quite like that too, now. But most people complain about that.

Mmm so it is maybe all quite political...what you want to hear vs what you are forced to hear, especially if that is done in order to alter your behaviour.

p.s. I changed mobile phone company to t-mobile just cos they pipe Vashti Bunyan at you when you on hold!

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