Bach to Basics

clockwork-orange.jpgTalk about life mimicking art: apparently some people charged with maintaining the public order in Britain have been reading their Burgess (or watching Kubrick, as the case may be). As the reports, in addition to the old and tested forms of crime prevention and crowd control (such as ubiquitous CCTV cameras and different technological gadgets), there’s a new idea being put into use which might well be straight out of Clockwork Orange. The headmaster at West Park School, in Derby had an idea to subject badly behaving children to “special detentions,” consisting of being forced to endure an hour of classical music. This Ludovico Technique seems to be working fine even without drugs and movies graphic violence (as it was administered to Alex of the Clockwork Orange), as the number of disruptive pupils has reportedly fallen by 60 per cent since the detentions were introduced. The efficiency of treatment is reflected by this remark by headmaster Walker:

“I can hear the groans as it starts but I always ensure the volume is high. Hopefully, I open their ears to an experience they don’t normally have and it seems many of them don’t want to have it again, so it’s both educational and acts as a deterrent.”

And it is not only for individual treatment of bad behaviour that classical music has proven useful for — BBC reports that back in 2000, Tyne and Wear Metro had enough of youths loitering in their train stations and decided to unleash Mozart, Vivaldi and Beethoven on their sorry asses — and again, apparently to great results. In addition to Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony, Russian composers (Symphony No. 2 by Rachmaninov, and Piano Concerto No. 2 by Shostakovich — the latter being in my personal opinion one of the most beautiful pieces ever written for piano) seem to be particularly effective deterrents. By now it is all over the UK that one can listen to classical music through vandal-proof speakers at bus stops, shopping centers and other “trouble spots”.

So if nobody is listening to Bach or Beethoven any more they are still not completely useless as long as one can use them in order to ward off potential troublemakers from the public space. I wonder if this is limited only to music — perhaps it would be possible to demonstrate that Homer, Virgil, Milton, Shelley and Goethe could be employed to the same effect, although I suspect that those might be seen as too brutal means and might well affect a wider populace rather than simply delinquent youths. I also wonder if we might one day reach the point when someone will argue that being subjected to Shostakovich is an inhumane treatment akin to sleep deprivation or forced body positions.

I somehow had always thought that Burgess was being ironic — but live and learn, as the saying goes.


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