Rafael Todes

Culture notes: Pest control

Culture notes: Pest control
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As an occasional user of Queensway Tube station, I have noticed that on exiting the lift I am met with the extraordinary and beguiling sounds of Mozart symphonies and piano concerti — well-chosen, beautifully played and blasted over the Tannoy system. There is something transporting about this post-underground experience, something I don’t expect after the humdrum of a packed commute.

The other day, a TfL official was standing around and I had a few minutes to kill while waiting for the lift, so I asked her about this bizarre but welcome phenomenon. She explained that this was part of a controlled experiment in crowd management. Sensing my puzzlement, she explained that Mozart’s music has been found to be particularly effective in dispersing groups of loitering yoovs from the station, owing to its ‘uncoolness’.

A continuous stream of sublime classics was the most effective way to stop these folk from hanging around and making mischief. I am told that, in a similar vein, shopping centres often play 20 Khz frequencies that older people can’t hear to target the same group of kids and cause them ear pain — a cruder but equally effective repellent.

It takes around 10,000 hours to learn to play a string instrument well, and as a classical musician and member of the Allegri Quartet I am disturbed by the notion that a high art form is being used not to enrich the soul but to repel young people. The biggest tragedy and damnation of our society is that it really works!