Weaponizing Mozart

How Britain is using classical music as a form of social control

In recent years Britain has become the Willy Wonka of social control, churning out increasingly creepy, bizarre, and fantastic methods for policing the populace. But our weaponization of classical music—where Mozart, Beethoven, and other greats have been turned into tools of state repression—marks a new low.

We’re already the kings of CCTV. An estimated 20 per cent of the world’s CCTV cameras are in the UK, a remarkable achievement for an island that occupies only 0.2 per cent of the world’s inhabitable landmass.

A few years ago some local authorities introduced the Mosquito, a gadget that emits a noise that sounds like a faint buzz to people over the age of 20 but which is so high-pitched, so piercing, and so unbearable to the delicate ear drums of anyone under 20 that they cannot remain in earshot. It’s designed to drive away unruly youth from public spaces, yet is so brutally indiscriminate that it also drives away good kids, terrifies toddlers, and wakes sleeping babes.

Police in the West of England recently started using super-bright halogen lights to temporarily blind misbehaving youngsters. From helicopters, the cops beam the spotlights at youths drinking or loitering in parks, in the hope that they will become so bamboozled that (when they recover their eyesight) they will stagger home.

And recently police in Liverpool boasted about making Britain’s first-ever arrest by unmanned flying drone. Inspired, it seems, by Britain and America’s robot planes in Afghanistan, the Liverpool cops used a remote-control helicopter fitted with CCTV (of course) to catch a car thief.

Britain might not make steel anymore, or cars, or pop music worth listening to, but, boy, are we world-beaters when it comes to tyranny. And now classical music, which was once taught to young people as a way of elevating their minds and tingling their souls, is being mined for its potential as a deterrent against bad behavior.

In January it was revealed that West Park School, in Derby in the midlands of England, was “subjecting” (its words) badly behaved children to Mozart and others. In “special detentions,” the children are forced to endure two hours of classical music both as a relaxant (the headmaster claims it calms them down) and as a deterrent against future bad behavior (apparently the number of disruptive pupils has fallen by 60 per cent since the detentions were introduced.)

One news report says some of the children who have endured this Mozart authoritarianism now find classical music unbearable. As one critical commentator said, they will probably “go into adulthood associating great music—the most bewitchingly lovely sounds on Earth—with a punitive slap on the chops.” This is what passes for education in Britain today: teaching kids to think “Danger!” whenever they hear Mozart’s Requiem or some other piece of musical genius.

The classical music detentions at West Park School are only the latest experiment in using and abusing some of humanity’s greatest cultural achievements to reprimand youth.

Across the UK, local councils and other public institutions now play recorded classical music through speakers at bus-stops, in parking lots, outside department stores, and elsewhere. No, not because they think the public will appreciate these sweet sounds (they think we are uncultured grunts), but because they hope it will make naughty youngsters flee.

Tyne and Wear in the north of England was one of the first parts of the UK to weaponize classical music. In the early 2000s, the local railway company decided to do something about the “problem” of “youths hanging around” its train stations. The young people were “not getting up to criminal activities,” admitted Tyne and Wear Metro, but they were “swearing, smoking at stations and harassing passengers.” So the railway company unleashed “blasts of Mozart and Vivaldi.”

Apparently it was a roaring success. The youth fled. “They seem to loathe [the music],” said the proud railway guy. “It’s pretty uncool to be seen hanging around somewhere when Mozart is playing.” He said the most successful deterrent music included the Pastoral Symphony by Beethoven, Symphony No. 2 by Rachmaninov, and Piano Concerto No. 2 by Shostakovich. (That last one I can kind of understand.)

In Yorkshire in the north of England, the local council has started playing classical music through vandal-proof speakers at “troublesome bus-stops” between 7:30 PM and 11:30 PM. Shops in Worcester, Bristol, and North Wales have also taken to “firing out” bursts of classical music to ward of feckless youngsters.

In Holywood (in County Down in Northern Ireland, not to be confused with Hollywood in California), local businesspeople encouraged the council to pipe classical music as a way of getting rid of youngsters who were spitting in the street and doing graffiti. And apparently classical music defeats street art: The graffiti levels fell.

Anthony Burgess’s nightmare vision of an elite using high culture as a “punitive slap on the chops” for low youth has come true. In Burgess’s 1962 dystopian novel A Clockwork Orange, famously filmed by Stanley Kubrick in 1971, the unruly youngster Alex is subjected to “the Ludovico Technique” by the crazed authorities. Forced to take drugs that induce nausea and to watch graphically violent movies for two weeks, while simultaneously listening to Beethoven, Alex is slowly rewired and re-moulded. But he rebels, especially against the use of classical music as punishment.

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  • Attorney||

    Convenience stores in the US have been doing this for years to keep teens from hanging out in or around them. Some use classical music, and some use elevator music. Of course, it's not state sponsored.

  • Abdul||

    Even where state-sponsored (it's done in some US subways), where's the harm?

  • Attorney||

    "Officially" broadcast music makes me feel like I'm in the Village.

  • ||

    You and me both.
    Be seeing you.

  • ||

    Well, the Village has a nice font and keeps everyone from being unmutual to one another. And it looks pretty green, all told--no sprawl, few motor vehicles, small homes. Lovely place.

  • Attorney||

    Well, the Village has a nice font and keeps everyone from being unmutual to one another. And it looks pretty green, all told--no sprawl, few motor vehicles, small homes. Lovely place.

    And free healthcare!

  • Solanum||

    I'm not sure why there was so much hate for the remake that came out last year on AMC. Not nearly as good as the original, but I quite enjoyed it.

  • zoltan||

    The last two episodes dragged on and the final reveal was underwhelming.

  • ||

    In a shop, it probably makes sense. Maybe, as a shopkeeper, I want the most intellectual customers to feel comfortable in my shop, so I'll pipe in classical music (this is hypothetical, I own no shop). However, using classical music as a punishment in schools directly sends kids the message, "MOZART BAD!" It will teach them to reject high culture (perhaps a good thing from some points of view...), and to avoid it whenever they can.

  • Robert||

    Ever see a performance of "Mozart Was a Red" by Murray Rothbard?

  • ||

    They botched it horribly. The plain script is much better. It's floating around the tubes somewhere.

  • musicDDL||

    That's why Britain sucks!! I can't believe they try to control the youth over there that much. I am glad I live in the States now ;] (i can finally grow up to be a fat american like i always wanted to)

  • alan||

    I actually love elevator music. A little 'The Girl from Ipanema' set to muzak can really perk up a gray sky kind of day.

  • ||

    I like "The Girl from Ipanema", but not in Muzak form.

  • seo mexico||

    What if it were? Where is the harm, with this?

    I think some people are searching ghost in every where

  • ||

    This is what taking everyone's guns and right to self defense away gets you. The drunken yobs in England run wild and are uncontrollable because there is no one left to stand up to them. If you do, you will get beat up an then arrested for your efforts. So what is a society to do? The answer quickly becomes this kind of crap.

  • ||


  • Attorney||

    Not to mention the cradle-to-grave government teat, which takes all the purpose out of doing something with your life.

  • rhofulster||

    I think John and Attorney have it right, but what seems really twisted to me is that these places never considered piping in the masters until they realized it would have this effect.

  • Kippers||

    I live in a city where this was tried. The result? Young black teens developing a healthy interest in opera.

  • Mo||

    So it's win-win. Either you get kids off your lawn or you give them a healthy dose of culture.

  • ||

    I don't think that using high culture as negative reinforcement counts as a "win." We aren't talking about your right to keep people off of your lawn, we're talking about the idea of using cultured music as punishment. It doesn't "solve" any problem. You either get thugs listening to Mozart or a society paralyzed by fear. That sounds lose lose to me.

    If you remember A Clockwork Orange, Alex was a classical music lover, which was Burgess's way of pointing out that music is about beauty, not "goodness or ethics." Even those who ran concentration camps listened to Mozart.

  • ||

    I think we now know where Alex's love for Beethoven got started.

  • Ska||

    That 2 on 1 from the arcade?

  • dhex||

    well, think of it this way. what style of music most suckles at the government teat? classical music and the related pathways of "high culture". (opera and whatnot)

    thus cultivating a dislike for classical music is cultivating a dislike for government subsidy of culture.

    (or something)

  • Mo||

    I woke up. The pain and sickness all over me like an animal. Then I realized what it was. The music coming up from the floor was our old friend, Ludwig van, and the dreaded Ninth Symphony.

  • Xeones||

    Not very horrorshow, oh my brothers.

  • ||

    Ye gods, are they trying to make A Clockwork Orange a reality? I suppose, as Kubrick movies go, it's better to pick that rather than, say, Dr. Strangeglove, but why not 2001?

  • Kippers||

    I'd prefer Eyes Wide Shut. For the sex.

  • Mo||

    Always Sunny has proven that this is not a desirable outcome.

  • ||

    They're getting close to completing "1984" so they figured starting on "A Clockwork Orange" was a good way to get a jump on things.

    Funny how the authors of both of these books hail from the UK. Can't the UK read the fucking books that it produces? Can it understand them?

  • ||

    No. They've been banned.

  • The Art-P.O.G.||

    LULZ...that is an interesting point. It's like British authors can always see it coming.

  • Ratko||

    There were those who witnessed Mozart doing his Jerry Lee Lewis thing on the piano entertaining the society circles they frequented who later testified they could always see it coming when Mozart was about to make his flatulence one of the instrumental sounds in his little key board concertos because the "Moze" would pause banging on the ivories and lift one buttock off the bench before letting it rip.

  • ||

    "but why not 2001?"

    Open the shopping mall doors, HAL.

    I'm sorry, Customer. I'm afraid I can't do that.

  • hurly buehrle||

    It seems they'd accomplish their purpose better if they used something like Nickelback or Creed.

  • Johnny Longtorso||

    They don't want to drive EVERYONE away.

    Is Nickeback The Worst Band Ever?

  • ||

    They were close. But I am taking Bare Naked Ladies and Limp Bizkit as a tie for greatest suckatude of the last 20 years.

  • SpongePaul||

    I like all music, execpt rap. but come on, barenaked ladies and nicleback are not bad, but thats my opioning, i would think that little wayne and the like are the worste ever. but then thas my .02. some people like them

  • ||

    This coming from a 70-yo man? LoLzer!

  • ||

    I am appalled, sir, that you would lump BNL in with such atrocious acts like Nickelback and Limp Bizkit.


  • ||

    Bear Naked Ladies were horrible, horrible, horrible.


  • BakedPenguin||

    Barenaked Ladies at least had "Brian Wilson", which IMO, redeems them somewhat.

  • ||

    Is Nickeback The Worst Band Ever?

    Why is that statement in the form of a question?

    They are the .38 Special of their generation.

  • BakedPenguin||

    They Are There To Remind Us - that some bands really, really suck.

  • Ted S.||

    Nah, that would be Michael Buble.

  • hurly buehrle||

    No, for that they'd have a playlist consisting solely of Korn, Limp Bizkit, the Offspring, and Papa Roach.

  • ||

    Think of how this sort of policy would evolve in the future. The old trying to scare off the young (rather than vice versa, which is TERRIBLE, lol), I mean. Imagine what music would be used to attract 40 year olds and repel 20 year olds twenty years from now.

  • ||

    That 3rd entry would put their breakthrough single to its intended use. Sorta.

  • The Art-P.O.G.||

    Nickelback is pretty horrific. Papa Roach and Barenaked ladies also don't do anything for me.

  • Ratko||

    There is no arguing tastes in art.

  • Brian E||

    I've no problem with classical music being used to discourage certain people from hanging around places where they shouldn't hang around. After all, it would likely make those places more pleasant for me to visit.

    Using it punitively, on the other hand? Let's just say that those administrators ought to have their eyelids held open for a special screening of A Clockwork Orange.

  • Horselips||

    What's with all the German composers? Are they still carrying a grudge from the war, or what?

    If even the British have abandoned Dowland, truly we have reached the depths of barbarism.

  • Mad Max||

  • Mad Max||

    Take a look at Valeria Mignaco in the second musical link - "I saw my lady weep."

  • Ratko||

    Was the never a lender nor borrower be a John Dowland work?

    Wish I had a nickle for every time that melody has been stuck in my head.

  • Horselips||

    Max, thanks. I have Paul O'Dette's complete lute works of Dowland - a guy who, oddly enough, began life as a heavy metal guitarist.

    I also recommend Julian Bream's "Two Loves", a performance of some of Dowland's lute pieces interpolated with Peggy Ashcroft's Shakespeare readings (hey, it works a lot better in the listening than you'd think!).

    And here's a real treat - Scott Tennant performing the Frog Galliard. My favorite performance of that piece.

  • Horselips||

    Ugh! Try that link again!

  • EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy||

    Back in my youth, struggle with the guitar (the parents insisted that we each take up some musical instrument), I tried to learn a series of pieces from the Dowland lute book.

    Beautiful stuff in the hands of someone competent, but that has never been me.

  • Alan Vanneman||

    The great thing is, Burgess and Kubrick are dead, not to mention Mozart and Beethoven, so the UK doesn't have to pay royalties either.

  • ||

    If UK law is like US law in this regard (and I think it is), they should be paying public performance royalties based on the particular recordings.

  • K-Y||

    That would be awesome if they were sued. That'll teach 'em not to go all cruel-and-unusual on people.

  • I, Kahn O'Clast||

    Oh my droogs! Not Ludwig Van!

    Would it not be more productive to pipe in grammar lectures? Maybe the youths would learn a lesson or two before being driven away and it would not be so bad on the adults who are welcome...

  • ||

    "Angel trumpets and devil trumbones!"

    "Orange" is my favorite film of all time.

    Followed by-

    Short Cuts and Magnolia

  • ||

    I absolutely hated Short Cuts.

  • ||

    Shouldn't that be "Weaponizing"?

  • Mad Max||

    In Scotland, they get even better results by forcing misbehaving kids to eat haggis.

  • ||

    That's a reward, damn ye Papist hide.

  • ||

    +12, yes 12

  • Almanian||

    Haggis rules. Fried haggis on a stick (had it in Glasgow) rules even more. Yum!

  • ||

    Mad Max:

    Shhhhhh! Don't speak of it, next the damned Sassenachs will revisit the reviled Ordinances that banned the Pipes as a weapon of war and turn them on the unrully youth!

  • Mad Max||

    Bagpipes? Wouldn't those raise issues under the Geneva Convention?

  • Mad Max||

    I mean, playing them to troubled youths.

  • Mad Max||

    Play them in front of terrorist suspects, and they'll talk, not that you'd be able to hear their confessions, of course.

  • Juan Sanchez Ramirez||

    Haggis? What is haggis?

  • ||

    The new "sushi."

  • ||

    For mis-spelling "weaponizing" in the title: two hours of Vivaldi.

  • ||

    And the ad for radio-controlled helicopters served with this article? Priceless.

  • Hacha Cha||

    they used to do this in one of the high schools I went to in PA. I can't remember what it was called, it wasn't detention, maybe in school suspension or something. it was after you had been suspended out of school and they made you come to school and work in a small separated class room where you couldn't talk, move, or even go to the cafeteria to eat lunch. I was only there a couple times because of missing school for medical reasons. I remember they used to torture a lot of the kids there by playing classical music.

  • lukas||

    He said the most successful deterrent music included: Pastoral Symphony by Beethoven, Symphony No. 2 by Rachmaninov, and Piano Concerto No. 2 by Shostakovich (that last one I can kind of understand.)


    You dis Shostakovich once more, you get what's coming to you...

    West coast 4 life.

  • Derek||

    I'll agree to that. I love Shostakovich, and I listen to his Piano Concerto No. 2 quite frequently. But, I suppose, as was said before, that there is no arguing tastes in art.

  • ||


  • ||

    While I appreciate his appearance, it's inappropriate to a Mozart tagged headline. As I'm sure we all know, Alex was partial to lovely lovely Ludvig Van.

  • ||

    Ludwig Mies van der Rohe?

  • ||

    Bah, an hour or two of Mozart or Bach? That's hardly a punishment. Make them sit through an entire performance of Wagner's Parsifal and they'll never so much as talk back to a meter maid.

  • ||

    Blackadder "The Germans know the meaning of torture, their operas last four days..."

  • BakedPenguin||

    The library in downtown Orlando did the same thing to keep the bums away. It sort of worked - they show up at opening time instead of hanging around the entrance for hours beforehand.

    And I agree with dead_elvis, Wagner is dreadful. I'm going to have to get a lot older and grumpier to want to subject those damn kids to Des Neibelung.

  • ||

    Oh, come off it. Wagner's music is a lot better than it sounds.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    Maybe its shit like this that is the reason UK has problems with "antisocial" behavior?

  • ||

    Sort of off topic, but Clockwork Orange is a bad book but a great movie.

  • Jeff P||

    The well-miked sounds of really wet, sibilant, and prolonged farts, played back at great volumes with the utmost clarity, will clear any space of people attempting to eat, drink, or hit on the opposite sex.

    Old men, however, will linger and listen with tears of envy in their eyes...

  • The Art-P.O.G.||

    Reminds me of the guy on Late Night With Conan O'Brien who used to walk around ruining situations by saying "pubes."

  • ||

    They could always use Brahms violin concertos played by a secondary school orchestra.

  • EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy||

    Do not---I repeat---do that to Brahms.

    Or else.

  • EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy||


    Preview---I repeat---preview.

  • ||

    I have been known to use opera as a weapon against my neighbors who insist on playing horrid Hispanic music as loud as their amplifiers will go. A good Rossini with lots of sopranos will overcome the noise any day. They now keep their vaquero music to themselves.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Try "Cenerentola" with Bartoli as the mezzo. Or anything else with Bartoli. I'm not much of an opera fan, but she has an amazing voice.

  • one||

    try being a good neighbor.

  • Slut Bunwalla||

    Whoa, I'm not the only one who had that problem? A while back the people in the next apartment would play horrible Mexican music at an absurdly loud volume, often late at night or relatively early on Saturday. It always pissed me off, but they seem to be gone now.

  • EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy||

    However, using classical music as a punishment in schools directly sends kids the message, "MOZART BAD!" It will teach them to reject high culture (perhaps a good thing from some points of view...), and to avoid it whenever they can.

    Poor bastards.

    Not that I spend much time sitting and savouring the nuances of classical music (and Rachmaninov wouldn't be my choice if I did), but some of that shit is top shelf.

  • MOJ||

    Fucking scouse cunts.

    Manchester United forever. Love United: Hate Glazer.

  • Beezard||

    Leeds-1 Scum-0

  • like it or lump it||

    The criticism of using music as a social control weapon is silly at best. Businesses should have the choice of not having teenagers hang around their premises. Schools should be able to choose music over kids staring at the walls in detention. I don't see how this is this your concern or mine.

  • ||

    I couldn't agree more. If it works- use it.Or would we prefer to have feckless oiks hanging around street corners, intimidating everyone else- because they are intimidating. The figure astride his bike, with his face mask up might be a kind lad who loves his mum. If he is, what's he doing at eleven o'clock at night, with a can of lager in his fist ?

  • ||

    It's like the Romans are still occupying Britain.

  • Beezard||

    Culturally this development is interesting. Britain vs it's youth. But beyond it's general creepiness, there's nothing too concretely authoritarian about.

    That is until the state bans metal and forces us to mindlink with their subservience machines like in 80s videos. Then Ronnie James Dio will save us with his righteous might!

  • ||

    I help sponsor a local initiative of the symphony orchestra here in Melbourne; they gave refugee kids a string instrument each and taught them how to play...they have put an orchestra together. It keeps them off the streets and introduces them to some of the best of Western culture. Not to mention the Sistema in Venezuela (which is not, I stress, anything to do with the socialist government).

  • Which Melbourne?|||

    Victoria or Florida?

  • ||

    ROTFL, makes sense to me. Nobody wants to hang around and listen to that nonsense.


  • thenino85||

    I wonder if they make a mobile version of the Mosquito.

  • Slut Bunwalla||

    One might wonder why the "teenager" as it exists today is a wholly American character. Then one reads articles like this and sees why. The US, for better or worse, tends to celebrate youth. Britain, on the other hand, has always seemed to hate youths with a passion. No doubt they would be happy to be a nation in which everyone is born at the ripe old age of 40.

  • Which Melbourne?||

    Victoria or Florida?

  • ||

    (I'm typing this while listening to Alban Berg's Violin Concerto) If you really wanted to drive someone away, you should play some really shrieky 1960's avantgarde jazz, e.g. Albert Ayler.

  • ||

    (I'm typing this while listening to Alban Berg's Violin Concerto) If you really wanted to drive someone away, you should play some really shrieky 1960's avantgarde jazz, e.g. Albert Ayler.

  • azimuth||

    ...and put it on repeat.

  • ||

    Well...there is a definite tyranny to an epidemic of drunken yobs as well; and to the critic who suggested that we are sullying youth's appreciation of the sublime sounds of Mozart: if it were so sublime, it wouldn't be an effective punishment, would it?

  • Beezard||

    I disagree with Britain's attitude towards social control. It's stupid, heavy handed, creepy, and effects everyone to deter a few.

    That said, I agree with you that the "ruining high culture" bit is a lame argument. And there's an element of cultural elitism in there, similar to those who argue public TV is necessary to save high culture(because who else will air Masterpiece Theatre?!)

  • ||

    I have just been reading the book "The Road to Serfdom" by Freidrich A. Hayek
    It speaks to an over controlling govt and the resulting misbehavior of youth. Perhaps Britan's socialistic overcontrol of its citizens and economy is leading it to repeat its WWII enemy's political philosophy and mistakes.

  • ||

    @John .. "This is what taking everyone's guns and right to self defense away gets you."

    Yes I guess it would be much better if all the kids were carrying cheap, easy to get guns and blowing each other's brains out on a regular basis. This argument that everything in society would be better if only guns were easier to get is just about the lamest piece of idiocy I can imagine and yet one hears it time and time again.

  • ||

    All this German stuff is far too weak. Harrison Birtwhistle is the answer

  • ||

    Somerset County Council play great music(V Williams, Rodrigo etc) in their public toilets in the cathedral city of Wells.
    Needless to say my emailed questioning of this policy received no response. Perhaps the Cathedral Music School should intervene.

  • Topher||

    Although on the surface it might seem a travesty to use classical music as punishment or to make undesirables flee the premises, it could also be argued that the more this music heard, no matter where or for what motive, the better. Who cares if some people come to associate it with negative feelings? They might never have otherwise heard it at all, and worse, other people may actually come to appreciate it through these bizarre mechanisms.

  • ||

    Brendan O'Neill is not a serious person. These young thugs ALREADY hate Mozart, as he admits, and yet he is unhappy that their inability to tolerate art music (I bet they have iPods full of the s#*t that is churned out of fecal canal of contemporary rap music) is being utilized in a way to get them to behave in a way that more closely approximates humanity. Let these little monsters decide to join the rest of us in civilization and we will welcome them. Until then, we must treat them as they act: like dogs.

  • ||

    there is nothing new about this use of classical music to disrupt social behavior patterns. it's been used to great success in the USA for years in urban settings to disperse undesired elements of society. and why not?

  • Jon M||

    Amazing how it never seems to occur to anyone to give kids something better to do. We can think of innovative ways to narcotize or agitate them, but not to fill their hours with meaningful activity. Truly pathetic.

  • ||

    "Britain might not make steel anymore, or cars, or pop music worth listening to, but, boy, are we world-beaters when it comes to tyranny."

    Good grief, O'Neill. Even for you this is blithering sixth-form stupidity.

  • ||

    @Janice "Perhaps Britan's socialistic overcontrol of its citizens and economy is leading it to repeat its WWII enemy's political philosophy and mistakes."

    No, it isn't. You need to understand that O'Neill is a fatuous professional contrarian rather than a serious analyist. He doesn't describe Britain as it is. For you to suggest that Britain is 'socialistic' is nearly as risible as the suggestion that it's emulating Nazi germany. There's probably no hope for O"Neill, but y'all should grow up.

  • ||

    What's the point here? I truly doubt that it's Mozart that scares people away. It's loudness and perhaps the fact that they're being watched. US PsychOps use loud - anything - to destroy the psyche of detainees. Along with no sleep, bright lights, cold temperatures, degrading displays in women's underwear, threatening German Shepherds - it seems to work over time. However, to think that the land that gave the world the Rock opera would stoop to such depths to simply enforce social conformity - well the Who said it all anyway didn't they? OTOH The fact that they played their golden oldies @ the Super Bowl says volumes about the new boss, huh? In sum, I think I'd be more worried about the mosquitoes and blinding lights myself. That is some scary shite.

  • ||

    It's not very loud. It's at a normal volume, played continuously.

  • André||

    In the states, I did hear about a teacher using Frank Sinatra the same way.


  • ||

    Wow! British Pink Floyd ('We don't need no education'), and Clockwork Orange (The torture by conditioned music leading to attempted suicide) come to mind...

  • ||

    A musician friend of mine was greatly pleased that mozart was being used in detentions. He and I argued over the point. He thought it was genuinely peace making, I knew it was torture, I am pleased to see that someone else has some sense (namely the author here).

    I am also by training a classical musician, and find use of classical music like this to be totally repellent

  • ||

    Given that Heydrich played viola in a string quartet but murdered Jews for a living, that Henry VIII was a tyrant and mass murderer but a composer, singer and performer, and that Luther was a talented musician but hated Jews, CAtholics and other protestants more radical than hiumself etc etc, I flatly deny that music has any redemptive function.

    As a musician my job is and was to entertain and nothing more.

    To think that art of any kind actually morally improves lives is sheer nonsense when one simply looks at the examples I have cited.

    So all that is left is that playing mozart to rebellious teenagers is only torture, albiet much milder than waterboarding. I may have enjoyed Mozart in detention, though i was too fearful to misbehave so was never in detention in my teens, as I was a musician then as now, but would my average class mate have enjoyed it? of course not

  • ||

    "How Britain is using classical music as a form of social control"

    This is utterly ridiculous.

    The STATE did not force the kids to hate Mozart in the first place. They learned that on their own. If X uses Y's own bigotry to control him, that's Y's problem.

    What if they used Lawrence Welk or the equivalent? Would that be any better? It'd work on me. :)

    But I think using it for special detention is the wrong idea. I'd make them listen to a short clip of the current hit song (perhaps ending a few notes before the actual end of the song) repeatedly or write one line of the lyrics a few hundred times. THAT would make them hate it. :) The former would probably drive the teachers nuts, though.

  • ||

    If they really wanted to punish the little miscreants, they'd subject them to a few hours of Dan Fogelberg.

  • Sarah||

    This is horrendous. I can think of few greater crimes than the one which is being perpetrated here. I won't repeat the author's sentiments, as I agree with him completely.

  • ||

    "I can think of few greater crimes than the one which is being perpetrated here."

    Really? Really truly? Maybe you would like to visit Brazil, perhaps in the company of the idiotic O'Neill, where four or five street kids are murdered each day at the behest of 'society' in what I put it to you both not only knocks British 'world-beating' tyranny into a cocked hat but is a far greater crime than playing The Four Seasons at a bus stop. Or any one of the glorious African or Asian republics where children are routinely beaten, raped and drugged as a means of forcing them into soldiery. You can't possibly claim never to have heard of these things and expect to be taken seriously, and if you have heard of them - you too, Brendan, you moral imbecile - then to maintain the positions you do defies logic and decency.

  • ||

    Maybe Gen Y are just not into classical music. Maybe all the rock and roll of their parents; Beatles - Clash - Nirvana - Public Enemy - Radiohead and so on actually has made classical music irrelevant to them.

    The sound, actual beat and texture of classical music may have become of no interest as a listening experience.

    Hence its now use as a deterrent.

    Just as print newspapers are actually dying ... so to perhaps in Gen X and now A, is classical music. You would call this a traversty, others would call it evolution.

  • ||

    I share the author's view on the subject, but I can't resist pointing out that the private sector has weaponized hip hop and sanitized "idol" pop for the past 30 years making my public experiences fairly miserable (I'm in New York). So while I'm depressed to hear the british nanny state is forcing Brahms in the ears of hooligans I have to say its a bit unfair that they get to go to the places with the good music while I have to hear to bad stuff everywhere I go.

  • ||

    Very amusing! If this bizarre tactic is so hateful, try cutting off overgrown youths from the British dole. Would that be less painful?

  • ||


    1) Aside from the mosquito, blinding, and general anti-teen sentiment in the U.K. (which has been demonstrated to be unfounded), this article contains nothing which should cause outrage.

    2) Teens get bored and angsty, then do annoying things like vandalizing and petty theft. Playing music which this particular class of people find to be generally disagreeable is in no way "weaponizing" it. In fact, teens with good musical taste will be perfectly content to shop in peace. The rest will leave to go listen to whatever they like whilst being angsty. This is not dissimilar to playing, say, Haddaway's "What Is Love" to keep the older crowd out of your trendy (vacuous) club, but in reverse. (note: the tune in question is clearly out of date, but seems to embody the concept like no other)

    3) This "special detention," sounds rather like, you know, detention. As in, that general punishment which kids have suffered as a result of minor infractions for generations. This guy just happens to play classical music which, by his own account, calms them. There's no indication of a GitMo-esque musical torture scenario.

    Good job trying to link completely unrelated things (i.e. "the creative use of music unpopular with a group to discourage their loitering," vs. "police abuse CCTV and physically blind people indiscriminately"), though. Actually, I take that back, you did a lousy job.

  • ||

    The brats subjected to Mozart as punishment were unlikely ever to develop a taste for classical music regardless. I would prefer the use of Stockhausen with the supervising teacher being given ear muffs.

    Indeed, I have no objection to any of the methods of controlling errant youth that you mention in this article.

  • ||

    I thought it was a fairly dog-like territorial gesture. The ruling elite are playing their music and saying "This is our space, you are on our sufferance here". Music always has a territorial edge.

    According to the political compass, both Conservatives and Labour are steadilly drawing close to the authoritarianism of Stalin, or Hitler. Indeed, Labour are closer to Stalin on this axis than they are to
    the Liberal Democrats.

  • MaxPSI||

    Someone needs to slap the British and ask them if they've *seen* A Clockwork Orange, because it's coming true.
    Let's hope classical music doesn't have the same effect on modern youth that it did on Alex... it inspired him to more violence.

  • jduhls||

    New Headline:
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    The next generation's government:

    "Britain Makes Classical Music Illegal"

    Oops! Reminds me of: "US Aids Taliban In Fighting Russia" and then "Taliban Shoots US". Silly, lost people.

  • ||

    What busines does Brendan O'Neill have defending Serbian imperialism in Britain?

  • ||

    I can see piping classical music (not loudly) into train stations and the like. There is a large chunk of society (I'll leave it at that) which finds classical music repulsive. We're never getting them back. They are lost to barbarism. Using it as punishment, however, is the most disgusting thing I've ever heard. The schools are actually CREATING the very barbarism they are trying to fight. And I agree that the passive-aggressive method of dealing with unruly youth, who are increasingly unruly-don't kid yourselves, is weak and will only lead to further decline of our civilization.

  • Randy||

    "...boy, are we world-beaters when it comes to tyranny." I love this line in the article. We in the U.S. concluded the same thing about 240 years ago.

  • tony||

    well, the word Mozart is a tad similar to Muzak...seriously. I did hear about some study that, when rock or pop music is played for background in restaurants, patrons tend to tip less than at restaurants playing classical music. I'm not so sure it's totally about 'mind control'...maybe it is. It's the feeling of being in a 'sophisticated' eating environment that may compel a restaurant patron to fork over bigger tips.

    Now, what if some skanky Irish or British dive, or pool bar played Mozart over the P.A., rather than the typical classic rock and metal fare? Would Hooters waitresses get bigger tips from their beer filled redneck customers who are subject to Mozarts Requiem? Hmmm, that sounds like an interesting experiment! Let's do it!

    Muzak is, beyond doubt, all about social control. It's usually in the interest of business people to employ such tactics so they may make more than enough to pay the rent at a shopping mall. And we've all heard that bland soft rock on the phone waiting for a customer service rep to take care of our issues. I guess the only way to really dig deep enough to find the truth of the use of music for mind control is to engage a thorough study of the effects of certain music structures on peoples feelings. That is a study that compells a lot of work.

    So, will I give a bigger tip to a waiter that gave me amazing service, but hearing Nickleback or Steppenwolf in the background?

    What if it was a Muzak version of Rush's 2112 The Temples Of Sphyinx, and I got lousy service at a 5 star yacht club restaurant? Hmmm!

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  • Josh||

    In my opinion, Mozart is one of the best musicians of all time. It only makes sense that playing music that quite a lot of people like will bring them together.

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    I can't believe Mozart music would be used as a control mechanism.

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  • 3m||

    I thought Beethoven's Ninth was the music of choice for that sort of thing.

  • sbo||

    Wouldn't something like Ligeti be more torturous? Not that I think this is anything but a stupid, stupid idea by baffled adults who probably treat children as indecipherable creatures that need to be controlled. In fact, I think the last two paragraphs are the most poignant of the article:

  • sbo||

    They’re so desperate to control youth—but from a distance, without actually having to engage with them—that they will film their every move, fire high-pitched noises in their ears, shine lights in their eyes, and bombard them with Mozart. And they have so little faith in young people’s intellectual abilities, in their capacity and their willingness to engage with humanity’s highest forms of art, that they imagine Beethoven and Mozart and others will be repugnant to young ears. Of course, this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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    In my opinion and surelly in opinion of many others. Classical music is not a way punishment but a way of teaching.

  • Ted||

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  • Alec||

    A Clockwork Orange anyone? Wow. Weaponizing music definitely ranks up there in the authoritarain scale. I'm embarassed to be a Brit...

    Anyone else agree?

  • Joe Biden||

    I think we shouldn't use classical music like this. None of these kids are ever going to like classical music now. Mozart would be spinning in his grave.

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  • impact crusher||

    I don't agree with Joe.I think we should use the classical,we would inherit the classical.

  • Samantha M.||

    Wow what a great post. It really makes sense. Culturally this development is interesting. Britain vs it's youth. But beyond it's general creepiness, there's nothing too concretely authoritarian about. That is until the state bans metal and forces us to mindlink with their subservience machines like in 80s videos. Then Ronnie James Dio will save us with his righteous might!

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