No Music Day

If someone asked you to give up music for a day, would you? Could you?

Writer and former rock star Bill Drummond wants you to try. Tomorrow, if possible. He’s declared Wednesday, November 21st “No Music Day.”

His point? To get us to think about the unwanted, sometimes-god-awful music we’re forced to hear in public places such as lobbies, restaurants, and shared office spaces. His point is to get us to listen mindfully.

To support Drummond’s mission, BBC Radio Scotland will eliminate all music November 21st, including the short clips before the news. Thousands of people have promised to live in silence for the day on the No Music Day Web site, http://www.nomusicday.com/home.html.

Another group called Pipedown has also been working toward the goal of eliminating unwanted music from public spaces. Conductor Simon Rattle and cellist Julian Lloyd Webber advocate for Pipedown, whose website (http://www.pipedown.info/index.php) states,

“Cows, when being milked, are supposedly more productive if lulled by piped music; the same principle is used to stupefy us into mindlessness before parting us from our money, votes, wits.”

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I’m conflicted about this.

I’ve long admired the Arizona-based International Dark Sky Association, which tries to get cities to issue darkness ordinances for better stargazing and environmental reasons.

But attempting to ban music from public spaces seems a bit controlling.

Furthermore, there’s something to be said for the sheer randomness of public music and the way we hear it in unexpected and spontaneous ways. I’ve been transfixed by chance encounters. I’m sure you have been, too.

I could wax poetic about the moment I overheard an organist practicing “Nimrod” from Elgar’s Enigma Variations in St. Bartholomew’s church in New York or how my skin tingled at the thrumming of a drum corps from across a football field. Ask me about the day time stood still in a Monroe Avenue bead shop where I stood frozen by a synthesized version of "Baïlero," the most famous of Canteloube's "Songs of the Auvergne."

Sure, there’s a lot of junk in public spaces. But give it up for a day? I don’t think so.

Besides, I don’t think I could go a day without it.