Background Noise

Pipe down. Now there’s a phrase you don’t often hear. I would have incorrectly guessed that it was associated with bagpipes, but its origins may be based on a nautical term. Whatever the source, as youngsters we soon learned its implied meaning: Be quiet. Sadly, this has been commonly replaced by the vulgar and threatening SHUT UP!, whose aggravating decibel spike nicely defeats the purpose.

Background Noise

One of my earliest, fondest memories is of having lunch downtown with my mother. Those were special occasions and the restaurant must have been a special place because a respectful hush hung over everything. While the swinging door that led into the kitchen provided a familiar rhythm, the diners chatted in lowered voices, accompanied by the clinking of silverware against glass. Laughter and cigarette smoke punctuated the atmosphere, and that was it. No one shouted, and everyone could be heard.

That was fifty years ago, and life today certainly seems noisier. Here’s a question: have you ever eaten in a restaurant that played Muzak you actually liked? Tapped your foot in time while shopping because the tunes coming from unseen speakers were so catchy you couldn’t help yourself? (Please, tell me you didn’t answer Yes to either question.)

I was reading this morning about an organization based in England (Pipedown, of course) which is leading, in their words, a campaign for freedom from piped music.

I searched in vain for a similar organization here in the States. I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised. In some quarters Mantovani is regarded as a great classical musician.

Best served with dinner.

“Music with dinner is an insult both to the cook and the violinist.” —G. K. Chesterton


2 thoughts on “Background Noise”

  1. Funny thing, when a musician gets a dinner gig, the point is to try not to be heard—to play, but pipe down! We call them “wallpaper gigs.” I don't play many of those anymore, 'cause the music I play these days on a metal dobro and a banjo doesn't sit well with dinner.

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