I’m just a few blocks from Penn Station right now, so this story on the New York Times this morning caught my eye. The article talks about the music Amtrak pipes in, served up by Mood Music, the company that bought out Muzak back in 2011. Headquartered in Austin, Amy Frishkey is one of three music programmers who works on Penn Station’s aural ambiance, and she’s never been there. Unlike her other two colleagues who also work on the account, at least she’s seen the majestic Grand Central. But travelers and New Yorkers alike know that station’s soaring main terminal is a far more appropriate environment for the tidy classical music Amtrak desires than the dismal corridors of Penn.
The most fascinating part of the article was a discussion of the notion that classical music can deter crime, an ulterior motive of Amtrak when they took up with Muzak back in the 1990s. A couple of anecdotes are presented about those who perpetrate street crime preferring to peddle their wares elsewhere when Beethoven is in the air. While I have serious doubts about the classical music at Penn Station being a factor in the welcome and precipitous drop in the violent crime that used to plague Manhattan through the mid 1990s, such a hypothesis is quite fun to contemplate.
The primary motive behind the classical music is, of course, to create a sense of serenity for busy passers-through. Beethoven quartets and Vivaldi are mentioned, but certainly nothing prestissimo – that would add bustle to a wary commuter’s already hectic day. Frishkey is quoted, “The music functions to create spaciousness, light, not feeling like you’re in a cattle call.”
The article also laments that “the 650,000 people who pass through Penn Station every day do not dance to the music.”
Thanks for reading.