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The Los Angeles Metro, trying to deter homeless people from bothering others on the subway system, is playing classical music at a downtown subway station, eliciting calls of “torture” from critics.
The Metro’s operations and security team worked with law enforcement to play symphonies, concertos, and piano sonatas by composers such as Beethoven, Mozart, and Vivaldi, in the Westlake/MacArthur Park Metro station starting in January. The rough weather plaguing the city in recent weeks catalyzed homeless people to find refuge in the subway system.
But critics complain that the music is too loud and promotes an elitist atmosphere. A recent L.A. Metro citizen-public-safety committee meeting featured a member calling the music a “psychological torture chamber,” The Daily Mail reported.
“You’re trying to attract and make certain people feel comfortable based on the associations with classical music,” musicologist Lily E. Hirsch told the Los Angeles Times. “And you see that in fancy cheese shops that play classical music because they hope people will feel like they’re a part of some elite upscale world and then they’ll spend more money.”
Hirsch called the music dystopian and creepy, the Times reported, comparing it to music from “The Silence of the Lambs.”
Although the Times claimed the music was painfully loud, L.A. Metro spokesperson Dave Sotero insisted that “the music is not loud” at MacArthur Park station.
“It’s like a bird marking its territory where you hear the signal and you go, ‘OK, this is not for me. This is for the older money crowd,’” Hirsh opined. “And that technique seems to work. There are examples of teenagers leaving an area that’s playing classical music, not because they don’t like the music but because of the associations.” She complained that the music is divisive, saying it was “creating hierarchies of sound” that privileged people were welcome while others were not.
Sotero informed the Times that the music is being used “to restore safety at the transit station” and “as a means to support an atmosphere appropriate for spending short periods of time for transit customers who wait an average of five to 10 minutes for the next train to arrive.”
Twenty-two people have died from suspected overdoses on Metro buses and trains since January 1. Transit officials claim the music has caused a “75 percent reduction in calls for emergency services, an over 50 percent reduction in vandalism, graffiti and cleanups; and a nearly 20 percent drop in crime.”