Classical Music Put to Good Use in Downtown Rochester
- Since last fall, owners of the East Main Street building have been pumping classical music through speakers inside and outside the building. They say their main goal is to set a comfortable mood at the building for students and shoppers — and there is evidence that's happening.
But WinnDevelopment officers also know that concertos, sonatas and minuets have a mysterious way of moving teenagers feet — if not their souls — and have been used to clear sidewalks, convenience stores, shopping malls and transit stations across the world for decades.
"We've read all the studies and I'm not sure if that's the major deterrent or it's part of it but the officers tell us that they think it is helpful," said Joe Eddy, vice president of Winn, who stressed that the music is just one small part of the company's efforts to change the "feel" around the Sibley building.
Using Handel and Hayden to shoo away young people is not new.
Some reports say it started in Montreal in the 1990s to clear supermarket parking lots. It's now used by the New York Port Authority and at libraries in London. The regional transit department in Portland, Ore. plays the music in light-rail stations to prevent vandalism. Fast food restaurants such as McDonald's have used it, as have 7-11 convenience stores.
"The first time I actually heard of anyone doing that it was probably 20 years ago in downtown Cleveland and it actually repelled homeless folks also," said Heidi Zimmer-Meyer, president of the Rochester Downtown Development Corp. "It was in an interior mall and they played a lot of classical music fairly loud and youth and homeless folks were repelled by it. It's an odd sort of a thing."
One theory about its effectiveness as a crowd and crime deterrent is this: That the soothing music puts people in a relaxed mood and less likely to fight, steal or vandalize.
The more accepted theory among experts, though, is that classical music is intellectual music, more challenging than other genres and that teens just don't like it.
- Consider one of those rare publicly admitted successful “Teen-Be-Gone” campaigns. An Australian McDonald’s open 24/7 attracted groups of late-night young loiterers, hardly a situation conducive to business. The manager solved the problem by loudly playing classical music, including opera. Sure enough, most of the youngsters fled elsewhere.... On the other hand, if you want to attract a middle-class female clientele to a restaurant, pipe in softly audible Vivaldi, Telemann, or Corelli. Middle-class women love this ambience, but teens can’t stand it.