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February 3, 2012 6:51 AM   Subscribe

"The (Minneapolis - St.Paul) Metro Transit system has turned on great composers in hope of turning off loiterers, vagrants and other troublemakers (YT) attracted to the station.' Eighteen- to 25-year-olds are generally the folks who are committing the most crime on our transit system,' Scruggs said. 'As a group, they tend to not like classical music (YT).'"
posted by obscurator (59 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
Montreal did that a few years back, too.

Huh, that was in 1999. In other news, I'm getting older.
posted by ibmcginty at 6:57 AM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Toronto started doing this at Kennedy subway station in the early nineties.
posted by orange swan at 6:57 AM on February 3, 2012


> "You go up that escalator and you feel like you're on your way to invade Poland,"

Isn't Wagner the "invade Poland" music?
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:59 AM on February 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


You know what would work even better? The sound of a boot stamping on a human face -- on repeat.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:00 AM on February 3, 2012


The solution to underemployment and lack of opportunity is noise pollution.
posted by DU at 7:02 AM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


You know what would work even better? The sound of a boot stamping on a human face -- on repeat.

No, that sounds too much like dubstep.
posted by Jon_Evil at 7:02 AM on February 3, 2012 [13 favorites]


Has it really been shown that criminals hate classical music more than they like doing crime?
posted by Legomancer at 7:03 AM on February 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


They tried this at a single subway station in Stockholm but I believe the intent was to amuse, not to annoy.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 7:05 AM on February 3, 2012


What, are they also going to install devices that override whatever the young folks are listening to on their iPods and substitute classical music?
posted by FrauMaschine at 7:06 AM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


This makes me want to go to Minneapolis and loiter like nobody's business.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:10 AM on February 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


My transit stop plays smooth jazz.

Haven't heard of any crimes there either.
posted by mcmile at 7:10 AM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I remember years ago some of the 7-11 stores used music to discourage loiterers in front of the stores, but they went really hardcore... Barry Manilow.
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:11 AM on February 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


There's a convenience store down the street here in Columbus, OH that does this. As a classical music buff, I happen to love it, but it does sting a bit that it's there to drive people off.

Of course, it's more that it tends not to be the loitering social group's party music.
posted by phenylphenol at 7:14 AM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, this topic was the subject of one of my all time favorite Metafilter comments, wherein Faze is simultaneously classist and insane.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:14 AM on February 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


Has it really been shown that criminals hate classical music more than they like doing crime?


We're not really talking about hardened criminals who "like doing crime," we're talking about raucous kids doing dumb-kid stuff because they're hanging around, and bored. Vandalism and disorderly conduct.

If they don't hang around where people are trying to go to and from work, then they don't do raucous jerk stuff.
posted by entropone at 7:15 AM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Has it really been shown that criminals hate classical music more than they like doing crime?

This isn't about criminals, it's about ostracizing young people.
posted by mhoye at 7:16 AM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I remember years ago some of the 7-11 stores used music to discourage loiterers in front of the stores, but they went really hardcore... Barry Manilow.

That makes perfect sense. 7-11s have a problem with shoplifting, so they want to encourage their customers to come and give without taking.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:17 AM on February 3, 2012 [6 favorites]


Obligatory Clockwork Orange reference.
posted by gcbv at 7:19 AM on February 3, 2012 [6 favorites]


Pittsburgh has had classical music in the subway stations for twenty five years but they do it because people like it and to promote local music, not to scare people away.
posted by octothorpe at 7:20 AM on February 3, 2012


I suppose this is better than installing a Mosquito device.
posted by jack_mo at 7:20 AM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Obligatory Clockwork Orange reference.

I didn't click any of the links either.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:21 AM on February 3, 2012


My transit stop plays smooth jazz.

Haven't heard of any crimes there either.


Smooth jazz is a crime.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:24 AM on February 3, 2012 [17 favorites]


I remember years ago some of the 7-11 stores used music to discourage loiterers in front of the stores, but they went really hardcore... Barry Manilow.

Pftt. If they were really serious about discouraging loitering, they'd have gone with Dan Hill. But I guess sometimes the honesty's too much.
posted by orange swan at 7:32 AM on February 3, 2012


You'd think a guy named Scruggs would have chosen bluegrass over classical.
posted by Loto at 7:32 AM on February 3, 2012 [7 favorites]


Isn't the reason that kids congregate at the Lake Street station is that it's like four blocks from a high school? Loads of kids in my area take the light rail to that school.

This just pisses me off.
posted by hoyland at 7:37 AM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have an aesthetic distaste for programs like this one, even though I tend to like classical music more than I like, say, Beyonce. It just seems so contemptuous, like we're all supposed to snicker about how the yout' are so stupid and so uncultured that we can drive them away by playing intellectual music! It's of a piece with that thing where older folks will sometimes drive around playing classical music really, really loudly on their car stereos, thinking that they are just being hiLARiously transgressive. Also, I think that in many cases "we" are meant to be understood as white and the youth are meant to be understood as young people of color.

Also, I spend a reasonable amount of time on public transit and the light rail in MPLS and so on and if anything there isn't much obnoxious behavior or graffiti - the light rail is pretty snazzy, and I think most people respect that. I can't help but see this as one of those "oh god it's so dreadful to see homeless dudes sheltering from the weather and bored poor kids hanging out, let's solve this by making them go somewhere else" white middle class people things.
posted by Frowner at 7:40 AM on February 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


Frowner, I also live in MPLS, but I'm a transplant here, and I definitely see a lot of pearl-clutching about homeless people, like everybody forced to sleep under a bridge is a blink of an eye into sinking a knife into the torso of a poor defenseless bike commuter just for the fun of it. Turns my stomach.

That said, I'm also of the notion that quite often, kids will be jerks, and this is a fairly mild way to try to get them not to be jerks in public places.
posted by entropone at 7:45 AM on February 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Isn't the reason that kids congregate at the Lake Street station is that it's like four blocks from a high school?

Could be:

Transit data show complaints of disorderly conduct, public intoxication, loitering and similar behavior at or near the Lake Street station declined in the summer around the time the series of initiatives began. But complaints edged up at the end of last year.

On the other hand, most high school students are out by age eighteen. Do we have any statistics on who exactly the low-lifes in question are?

It's of a piece with that thing where older folks will sometimes drive around playing classical music really, really loudly on their car stereos, thinking that they are just being hiLARiously transgressive.

Not familiar with that particular thing. Maybe they're just upping the volume for deafness on account of being old?
posted by IndigoJones at 7:48 AM on February 3, 2012


Who could have imagined such a thing? This "youth" thing, it is such a new concept! Maybe once we get used to having youth around, we'll know how better to accommodate this strange need of theirs to be together in groups.
posted by Goofyy at 7:52 AM on February 3, 2012


mhoye: This isn't about criminals, it's about ostracizing young people.

Ostracizing? Really? Personally, I would have gone full-bore Godwin, and said this is like a holocaust on the poor, defenseless kids who only want a nice place to socialize and meet their friends.

But then I was a genetic freak as a teenager; hearing classical music in the background didn't cause me debilitating pain.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:01 AM on February 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Once again Minnesota's finest, Whoopee John Wilfahrt is overlooked...it's like going to Home Depot for a can of Raid when you already have a tank of DDT in your garage...
posted by Esteemed Offendi at 8:08 AM on February 3, 2012


So, this topic was the subject of one of my all time favorite Metafilter comments, wherein Faze is simultaneously classist and insane.

...moreso than usual?
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:10 AM on February 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't think this will stop any real amount of crime and I have no problem with a bunch of kids hanging around, but I'm thrilled with this because it's nice music to hear while I wait for the train. Maybe I'm oblivious or an idiot, but the only stop I've ever seen any trouble at was the Mall Of America station and that was pretty mild.

"It has these areas that are heated with overhead lamps," said Minneapolis City Council Member Gary Schiff. "People can just hang out there."

I understand not wanting people to "just hang out" but there are very few actual issues noted in the article. Oh, wait:

While vandalism and disorderly conduct were the most common problems in and near the station, two young men were stabbed and two others arrested last April after a fight broke out there.

Well, there are far too many stabbings, shootings, and fights in Minneapolis and moving people away from a transit station is probably not going to stop that. The article seems to mostly agree with me but I think the framing that I've seen on StarTribune and MPR are odd to say the least.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 8:13 AM on February 3, 2012


I suppose this is better than installing a Mosquito device.

What's great about the Mosquito device is it also repels adults who still have their high-range hearing. Like me.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 8:15 AM on February 3, 2012


When I was growing up, city officials in Middletown, CT employed this strategy to keep a little mini-park behind a parking garage from becoming a hangout for certain undesirables. It wound up becoming a hangout for goths.
posted by Jon_Evil at 8:27 AM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Classical music is much better than Mosquitoes.

I'm twenty-freaking-six - and I'm still pained whenever I go anywhere near a Mosquito installation.

It's not just an issue of "don't go there" because they're broadcast on public streets. It's also less "repelled" than it is "inflicted substantial pain".

Any suggestions for getting them removed that won't get me arrested?
posted by Neuffy at 8:29 AM on February 3, 2012


Typical Keillorian response. Maybe they should replace the contents of the vending machines with lutefisk too.
posted by Fezboy! at 8:36 AM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Interesting. This would very probably explain why we've had music from Carmen coming out of the speakers at the Lloyd Center MAX stop in PDX for the past couple of weeks.
posted by TheDonF at 8:37 AM on February 3, 2012


There's this guy at South Kensington tube station who plays Kenny G hits when you step off the Picadilly line. Don't mind him much - my rule is to drop a coin to any busker who plays three notes right in quick succession - but I generally prefer to donate to more eclectic musicians. Like this guy who plays below the Millenium bridge on the Tate Modern side of the Thames.

Actually, the only point here was that London has some -interesting- buskers.
posted by the cydonian at 8:42 AM on February 3, 2012


It's of a piece with that thing where older folks will sometimes drive around playing classical music really, really loudly on their car stereos, thinking that they are just being hiLARiously transgressive.

Not familiar with that particular thing. Maybe they're just upping the volume for deafness on account of being old?


Oh, I have ridden in the car with an older folk doing this - and by older, I mean "older than teens and twenties popular-music audiences", late forties to late fifties...and it was definitely "those young people with their noisy hippety-hop music, I'll show them that I can blast my music too". It was not the first time I have encountered such an attitude, and it's a bit embarrassing.
posted by Frowner at 8:42 AM on February 3, 2012


I'm 28 and I've loved classical music since I was a kid.

I am also gay and own three pairs of silk underwear.

Make of this what you will.
posted by Avenger at 9:05 AM on February 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


When I was growing up, city officials in Middletown, CT employed this strategy to keep a little mini-park behind a parking garage from becoming a hangout for certain undesirables. It wound up becoming a hangout for goths.

I think Klekelo had something to do with that.
posted by entropone at 9:06 AM on February 3, 2012


The main transit station in Olympia, WA plays classical music on the loudspeakers too, I think mostly in nice weather. I find it sort of pleasant, actually. To be honest, it doesn't seem to have any affect on loitering one way or the other.

...and then a bit of googling turned up this hilarious "Best of Olympia*: Best Place to Meet Your Future Baby Mama":
when we meet some fresh-faced Betty from Shelton and wow her with our knowledge of Brahms or Chopin, it's like, "Thanks for setting ‘em up, I.T., I'll knock em down."
* OMG, the "Best Professional Lesbian" lives on our block! Anna is pretty awesome, and her wife is a sweetie.
posted by epersonae at 9:53 AM on February 3, 2012


On a drive through western Kansas a couple of years ago I stopped to stretch my legs in the little town of Syracuse. As I was walking along the main street I heard easy listening music coming out of a closed store. I didn't think anything of it until half a block and across the street later I realized that the music hadn't stopped. Then I started looking around and noticed tinny speakers attached to the roof overhangs. If the intent was to chase "undesirables" away the music worked wonders. Then again I didn't see another person, desirable or undesirable, on the street in the fifteen minutes I was in town.
posted by plastic_animals at 10:32 AM on February 3, 2012


Minneapolis did this for years to keep people from congregating around the then-unused Cowles Center, but all it resulted in gangs of callow youths in swallow tail tuxedos clutching their opera glasses and beating each other with walking sticks as Mozart played in the background.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:04 AM on February 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


I just came to say that the muzak in NY Penn Station has permanently ruined classical music for me.

Instead of associating Penn Station with high society, I now associate Bach with underground tunnels, bad architecture, offensive smells, and the knowledge that, no matter how badly you need to take a piss, you're far better off holding it in until you get to New Jersey.*

*If you've never been to Penn Station, but have seen Trainspotting, I'll illustrate my point by arguing that the "Worst Toilet in Scotland" scene could have plausibly been filmed in the NYP mens room.
posted by schmod at 11:12 AM on February 3, 2012


I can't feel sympathetic to any furor about this given that classical music is innocuous enough that it can be tuned out by most or at least regarded as a neutral listening experience if not appreciated. If its an effective deterrent to crime, so be it. As jack_mo said, it's a much more tasteful alternative than a Mosquito if you've got a committee determined to make changes in a given area.

Frowner: Also, I think that in many cases "we" are meant to be understood as white and the youth are meant to be understood as young people of color.

That's a pretty wild extrapolation, no? I would imagine the idea is that classical music has been shown to reduce crime, not that it implies a cultural divide - if playing the local Hot 97 type station had similar sedative effects it might be used instead. You can make cultural assumptions about classical music but if you look at it objectively there are two main reasons it likely works for its intended purpose under these circumstances:

1. Its anachronistic, music from another time and therefore disorienting and foreign.

2. Its harmonically complex and therefore distracting due to the dense musical content.

It's not as if metro stations have an obligation to pander to certain audiences, their intention is to protect their investment.
posted by I've wasted my life at 11:41 AM on February 3, 2012


Personally, I would have gone full-bore Godwin, and said this is like a holocaust on the poor, defenseless kids who only want a nice place to socialize and meet their friends.

Feel free to point me to the long list of places, in a typical North American town, where kids between the ages of about twelve and seventeen can socialize without needing a driver's license or getting harassed by mall cops and busybodies.

A big reason youth vandalism is a big problem, particularly in the suburbs, particularly among kids who aren't old enough to drive yet, is that there is nothing else to do for miles in any direction.
posted by mhoye at 12:17 PM on February 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


They've just recently installed a similar system in Portland, OR at the light rail station I use fairly frequently. With a fairly limited selection of songs, about half of which is opera. It clashes rather gratingly with the music and podcasts I'm typically listening to.

It's nearly enough to incite me to commit various misdemeanors in order to demonstrate that the system isn't effective.
posted by NMcCoy at 12:23 PM on February 3, 2012


I think the Minneapolis light rail is a good example that shows when you build nice, practical things in poor neighborhoods, they don't get trashed. The Lake Street station is on a pretty sketchy corner (there's a very large, poorly-lit shopping center that attracts drunk/homeless people), but the station itself is clean and attractive. The Cedar-Riverside station is actually maybe more impressive, since it's in the middle of a 2,000-unit, notoriously-dangerous public housing project. I'd never walk around there alone at night, but I've waited at the station many times during the day and it's always been litter- and vagrant-free.
posted by miyabo at 1:24 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I sort of applaud the measure, and was not intent on trivializing it, or the relative success of MPLS light rail station based on its (to me) ironic contradiction vis a vis Alex &c. I've been on a serious Beethoven kick these days and would much prefer hearing it instead of what's interminably piped over my local bus station's usually desolate bus station:
"This terminal is on heightened security alert. Please clutch your valuables at all times and report any suspicious behavior..yaddayadda..."
Also, maybe some impromptu live performances at a mass transit station would keep those kids' knives unflicked..
posted by obscurator at 1:55 PM on February 3, 2012


MetaFilter: ...wherein Faze is simultaneously classist and insane.

We love you Faze
posted by Blasdelb at 3:00 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


The analogue to this in my area a while back was stores playing country & western to drive off the unwanted loiterers, on the theory that c&w is the Most Uncool Genre. IIRC it worked briefly, then everyone got used to it and went back to their usual haunts.
posted by hattifattener at 4:09 PM on February 3, 2012


Also, I think that in many cases "we" are meant to be understood as white and the youth are meant to be understood as young people of color.
That's a pretty wild extrapolation, no? I would imagine the idea is that classical music has been shown to reduce crime, not that it implies a cultural divide...


I don't pay a ton of attention to the local news, so the Lake Street station could have become a haven for crime and I've not noticed (I used to be there semi-regularly at night), but I have the strong impression that the 'undesirables' are young people of color. It's irrelevant whether young people (of any race) like classical music or not, it's that 'we' feel the need to chase them away.

(There's a fair amount of horsing around done on light rail platforms that may well get someone killed sooner or later. If this had been cast as 'we want the kids to push and shove somewhere other than the platform', maybe I would buy it. (I've seen cops talk to people on the platform for two things: fare evasion and playing about.) But not when it's framed as chasing away undesirables.)
posted by hoyland at 6:10 PM on February 3, 2012


My local library tried this. Unfortunately I went on Paul Robeson day. Ol' Man River on repeat is a perfectly good way to keep high school kids away from the library and to tempt people like me to commit barbarous acts of savagery and arson.
posted by ninazer0 at 7:19 PM on February 3, 2012


[from, "Up from the Cellar," by Nicholas Spice, concerning the childhood of Austrian author Elfriede Jelinek]:

"As an apprenticeship in dissidence, a childhood sacrificed to classical music is hard to beat.

"Classical music is always acceptable to authority because it cannot overtly challenge power with subversive ideas or disturbing representations.

"Parents and states know they are on safe ground when their children or subjects are playing Mozart or Schubert -- and enjoying it. Elfriede Jelinek learned this the hard way and it sensitized her, as a citizen, to the co-option of classical music by the Austrian state as the peculiarly Austrian art and the guarantee of the country's essential civilization."

Doesn't this analysis recall the old gibe, “The Austrians managed to convince the world that Beethoven was an Austrian and Hitler a German”?
posted by 0rison at 10:51 PM on February 3, 2012


I'm in Berlin right now. During the work week, the subway closes around 1:30 am and opens again for commuters (I think around 6 am, but I'm not ever up that early).

It has been particularly cold here recently, and yesterday a German friend told me that a couple of homeless people had died this week because of exposure, and that therefore the mayor of Berlin (or, maybe it was someone else, my friend talks too fast for me to catch everything all the time) has been arguing that when it is dangerously cold, the subway needs to stay open all night so that homeless people have a place to go so that they won't freeze to death.

I was totally taken aback by that. My initial reaction was: "That would never happen in America. Instead, the mayor would say that the homeless people should have known better than to try and sleep outside in this weather instead of going to a shelter. And then the city govt would take stronger measures to make sure that 'improper use' of subway stations didn't increase during the winter months."

But that sounded like a horribly cynical thing to say, and my German friend is cute--even if he talks to me like I actually understand German as well as the Germans do--and since I am trying to make a good impression on him, I generally try to not make it sound like I come from a completely barbarous country. So I didn't say it; I just filed it away as something to think about later. I didn't have any proof anyway, just a gut feeling. But this article makes me think that my gut feeling was actually probably right.
posted by colfax at 2:26 AM on February 4, 2012


I was totally taken aback by that. My initial reaction was: "That would never happen in America. Instead, the mayor would say that the homeless people should have known better than to try and sleep outside in this weather instead of going to a shelter. And then the city govt would take stronger measures to make sure that 'improper use' of subway stations didn't increase during the winter months."

Absolutely. Here in liberal Minneapolis/St Paul, the last ten years have been an orgy of bus-shelter destroying, so that those terrible, terrible homeless people can't huddle out of the wind in an unheated glass space. As a result, of course, everyone else has to stand in the cold and rain to catch the bus - but only the poor ride the bus, so it doesn't matter.

It's pretty hilarious to see what used to be an enclosed bus shelter replaced - if it's replaced with anything - by a short roof and one 'wall', something which is too fragile and narrow to keep out any weather at all, since the rain and wind just blow right 'round the edges.

And as an extra fillip of class-baiting, those bus shelters usually have 'motivational' propaganda posters on them showing, like, black dudes playing with their kids and some kind of fatuous, condescending, racist message that boils down to "we know that black guys like you have dozens of kids with different women - have you ever considered being a dad?" As if poor communities are poor because it never occurred to anyone to be otherwise.

Or then there's the other ones with sports heroes or other wealthy celebrities and incredibly stupid, punning headlines about their rise to the top - which according to the posters was based solely on bootstraps and had nothing to do with any advantages they may have had in terms of looks, class, race, wealth, luck or the desire of record labels and sports teams to market famous people.

In richer neighborhoods, the bus stops have posters advertising the Fort Snelling museum as a fun family destination - so you can take your kids to visit re-enactments at the place where hundreds of Dakota prisoners of war were held in starvation, illness and want until they died.

I love Minnesota and I love Minneapolis, but there are plenty of things I could do without.
posted by Frowner at 8:54 AM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I go to work fairly early, being at Amsterdam central station usually just around seven a.m. and I often see rentacops shouting/shaking people awake on the benches just inside the station -- not just obviously homeless people, but also people waiting for their train to schiphol to go back home or whatever and it always enrages me. At such moments I can understand why the nazis had such an easy time of it here in WWII.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:24 PM on February 4, 2012


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