Muzak to soothe the savage breast

At 8 a.m. on a weekday morning, Toronto Transit Commission commuters are accustomed to the jingle of bus tokens, the buzzing of the escalators and, according the TTC representative Jessica Martin, the music of Bach’s ‘Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 In G.’

“Playing classical music at Kennedy (Road subway) station began March 19, 1998,” she said.

She pointed out that, ever since then, the music of Bach, Beethoven and Vivaldi has helped the TTC to fight vandalism and loitering in the subway system.

“It was recommended to us by the Kennedy safety audit report,” Martin added, “as a way of moving people through the station and prevent loitering … and it has worked. That’s why we expanded the program to play at several stations such as Bathurst, Greenwood and Warden since then.”

Using music to manipulate listeners is far from a new concept, and certainly not limited in the effect of preventing violence and loitering. Muzak, sometimes called “elevator music,” has been around for more than 65 years.

Jesse Feyon, the program co-ordinator for music industry and performance program at Centennial College, explained Muzak’s history.

“Muzak is a company based (in) Seattle that claimed their music was scientifically proven to change the way people react in certain situations,” he said.

Feyon said studies about music introduced at a subconscious level indicate that it can have startling effect, such reducing blood pressure, decreasing anxiety levels and assisting stroke patients to regain visual awareness.

“Playing Muzak in the office or at shopping malls can increase productivity,” Feyon said, “(and even) cause people to spend more money and decrease agitation (among) customers.”