Tourist Hub’s Classical Soundtrack Lulls Visitors Into False Sense Of Security

Dec 27th, 2006 // 4 Comments

Yesterday’s New York Sun looked at the classical music piped into the Amtrak concourse of Penn Station, New York’s hub for train-traveling tourists, and whether or not Mozart and Bach succeed in classing up the joint:

Bach and Handel composed music for royal audiences preoccupied with boating, dining, and conversations over cards. In other words, their fugues and string quartets have been interrupted and talked over for centuries.

“The beauty of the Brandenburg Concertos is that you don’t necessarily have to invest yourself in them all the way,” Mr. Preston said. “It greatly enhances the atmosphere without distracting you very much.”

Background music also plays a camouflage effect when used in high-traffic public spaces like bus depots and train stations. “It masks conversation,” a psychology professor at New York University whose work focuses on music’s effects on emotion, Edgar Coons, said. “That’s a big reason why they play it.”

Passengers also say that unattractive transit hubs seem more pleasant with the addition of baroque music in the background. “The classical music makes Pennsylvania Station feel like a nicer, safer place than it might actually be,” a traveler, Yosef Golubchik, said as he arrived in Manhattan from New Jersey.

We hope Mr. Golubchik doesn’t mistakenly venture down to Penn Station’s Long Island Railroad concourse, where, according to the Sun, top-40 music is still piped in. Who knows what horrors are lurking in the TGI Friday’s and Starbucks down there?

Transit Hubs See Benefits of Baroque in the Background [NY Sun]


  1. mike a

    It’s been awhile since I’ve ventured into Penn Station. How exactly do Mozart and Bach manage to “class up” the rampant in-your-face beggars, soothe the mad rush downstairs to the NJ Transit trains, or give you a freakin’ place to sit without buying an Amtrak ticket?

  2. airfigaro

    “Bach and Handel composed music for royal audiences preoccupied with boating, dining, and conversations over cards. “

    Sure, Handel composed for the royality and elite of England and Germany, but Bach composed music for God, he was a devote Luthern, and his life revolved around the church….

  3. millwhistle

    I’m surprised they didn’t do this in port authority, where the impressive stench and dinginess make a much starker contrast to the faux-soothing music. there is nothing you can do to make the greyhound bus line not depressing.

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