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Classical Notes

Maybe supertitles would help

Posted at 12:58 PM on April 4, 2006 by Don Lee

“This music sucks,” complained a young man hanging out on Block E in downtown Minneapolis. He was talking about opera music—arias and choruses coming through the speakers outside the bar/video game parlor, Gameworks. According to the story in today’s St. Paul Pioneer Press, the music is supposed to chase away loiterers.

The strategy apparently works. For several years, stories like this one have been popping up regularly all over the country. The Associated Press reported about a month ago that Beethoven is driving drug dealers out of a park in Hartford. A musicologist quoted in that story lamented the irony that "some of the greatest composers in history are now being viewed as some kind of bug spray or disinfectant."

While I know what he means, I also must observe that one man’s bug spray is another man’s balm. You would not catch me loitering on Block E if it were Neil Diamond coming out of those speakers.