Berlin bans atonal music from public transport

Berlin bans atonal music from public transport


norman lebrecht

August 27, 2018

The plan to blast advanced modernism at Hermannstrasse station in order to drive away layabouts has been blown off track after 300 people attended a new music festival there this weekend.

Overnight, Berlin drug dealers were heard whistling Webern’s opus 27 as they measured out a toke and iTunes almost crashed over demand for Schoenberg’s fourth string quartet.

As if…. What killed the scheme was a protest from objection from the all-powerful German Music Council which said in a statement: ‘This attempt of instrumentalizing music in public space is unspeakable.’

So we guess it won’t happen.


  • buxtehude says:

    The unthinking presume to define the unspeakable.

    How about this then: if the street playback of “advanced modernism”-type music is beyond the intellectual-moral pale, how much worse it must be to let it into the sacred spaces of Germany’s concert halls, not to speak of the unwilling ears of their votaries.

    • Arnold says:

      At least they didn’t denounce it as Entartete Kunst…

      • professor says:

        Didn’t they, in effect?

        • Hilary says:

          Not really. The inference was that it was degrading to use serious music for these purposes.
          Also, it can’t be underestimated that drug dealers come from all factions of society, some of whom are of a rather cultured disposition. Thereby mitigating the intended purpose.

          • John Borstlap says:

            That last suggestion is a modernist one: that people with a cultured disposition would appreciate some nice atonal Klangkunst. The implication is, that you have to be ‘culturally-developed’ to really understand modernism, that it requires some kind of ‘advanced’ mental state, some higher disposition. That seems to me a quite naive notion, as if something that obviously is regressive, would represent progress.


          • MWnyc says:

            Drug dealers “of a rather cultured disposition” don’t generally need to do their deals in train stations. They can do them in their apartments, or restaurants, or any number of places. Perhaps even in concert halls before the performance starts or during intermission.

          • buxtehude says:

            Good God! Does this mean that advanced modernism will have to be run continually even in the concert halls just to drive them out?

            The world seems to get more complicated every day

  • Arnold says:

    They did something similar at The Glasgow Museum of Modern Art a few years ago, except they blared out Beethoven symphonies to deter the Goths and Emos from loitering at the entrance after hours. I always thought Schoenberg, Bartok and Ligeti would be far more appropriate for a modern art establishment.

  • John Borstlap says:

    Hilarious….. the junkies being protected by the state. But Deutsche Bahn can still send Johannes Kleidler to the station, with a small transistor radio in the background:

    • Sue says:

      Since they are not routinely rounded up and kept away from the public, yes, they are being protected by the state.

    • Hilary says:

      The marvels of Xenakis’s Metastasis ( which you posted earlier) become particularly apparent when compared with a work which is outwardly not dis-similar.
      More than ten years later, this Penderecki piece (conducted by Karajan, of all people) lurches from one sensation to the next but minus the sense of inevitablity I get from the Xenakis :

  • HRBmus says:

    The choice of music is irrelevant, whether it is this case, or the nasty habit in the US of using Mozart as audio “bug-spray” to keep teenagers out of conveninece store parking lots, or the US military blasting Acid rock at the Panmanian Embassy to drive El Piña out of hiding. The weaponizing of music in any manner is indefensible. Kudos to the Germans on this one.

  • Peter says:

    Is it possible that instead of turning the music off, they have replaced it with John cage’s 4’33” on a time loop ?
    That would be equally disrespectful, and probably failing to pay PRS royalties.
    Can we ask for clarification ?

  • Mark says:

    Well, something similar works pretty well at NYC’s Port Authority Bus Terminal. They play standard fare though – Vivaldi, Bach, Mozart. The loiterers are gone …

    • John Borstlap says:

      Nothing takes-out the fun of delinquency like Vivaldi.

      • buxtehude says:

        Vivaldi is a bad composer.

        • Pianofortissimo says:

          Just now, yes, he hasn’t composed much lately. 🙂

        • Hilary says:

          Are you serious?!
          Over-exposure has perhaps garnered contempt in the case of the Four Seasons but fundamentally there’s a level of inventiveness which completely outstrips some of his near contemporaries eg. Locatelli.
          Check out the gorgeous in terra pax from the Gloria.

          • buxtehude says:

            No, not serious. Part of an attempted dialogue with John Borstlap, may he sleep through all of this.

            More hi-5s for Corelli though, although I realize he was a quarter center sooner.

          • Michael Schiano says:

            I’m guessing that 99% of the Vivaldi that’s broadcast is the 5% that sounds like the Spring concerto. Cello sonatas are remarkable. Indeed, if you’re used to playing continuo in Bach, playing it in a cello sonata makes you feel like you’re on another planet. And yes the Gloria has some some astounding places!

  • David A. Boxwell says:

    Here in the States, 7-11s used to blare Mantovani’s muzak out into the parking lots to deter loitering teens.