Muzak–Ugh!

By Adam Raphael

The Guide has been banging on for years about Muzak. To little or no effect. Hoteliers insist that music helps a quiet dining room. But few things are more intrusive. Younger guests barely notice what is being played. But oldies find poorly amplified, so-called easy listening rubbish hard to take. ‘Most annoying was the background music’ wrote one long-time reader. ‘I asked the manager to turn it off. He substituted a recording of Simon & Garfunkel, calculating that it was more of our era’. Never mind the Sound of Silence, there is an even worse auditory threat about.

The new menace is Radio 2. ‘I was confronted by this ever-growing curse when I stayed at an otherwise lovely new hotel’, growled a veteran Guide reader. ‘The Cookie Jar in Alnwick, Northumberland, has been created, no expense spared, from a former convent a few yards from Alnwick Castle in this charming old town. It is a splendid boutique hotel and our large top-floor room had a stunning, modern bathroom, almost as large as some hotel rooms. So far so good? Well here’s the rub…We came down to breakfast in the informal restaurant and there it was, the curse – Chris Evans on Radio 2. I couldn’t make out a single word.

‘This is the third or fourth hotel I’ve stayed at who think it’s a great idea to inflict this banal drivel on their paying guests. Why oh why do I have to be forced to listen to their choice of junk as the price of eating my breakfast? The Battle of Muzak is already lost but hopefully not yet with Radio 2. As well as asking whether we want tea or coffee, brown or white toast, scrambled or poached eggs, full fat, semi-skimmed,, soya, oat or almond milk maybe these aural offenders should also ask ‘Radio 1, Radio 2, Radio 3 , Radio 4, The World Service, Radio Moscow or silence Sir?’

Pertinent questions! Which reminds me of a friendly exchange I had with Edmund Inkin, who owns the Old Coastguard, Mousehole, near Penzance which is much liked by Guide readers. Despite, I should mention, the radio being played routinely at breakfast. This prompted me to write: ‘You say: “your guests appreciate Radio 4 in the morning and then suitable music during the rest of the day.” ‘Well, that may be right for some, maybe even a majority, of your guests. I accept that many guests will be oblivious to the racket, perhaps a few will even positively like it, but it will irritate a vocal minority. I know from our postbag that our readers dislike having radio pumped at them in the morning and are equally not keen on background music at all hours of the day and night. The problem about music (let alone Muzak) is that there are few more divisive issues. That is why some railway stations play Bach through their loudspeakers in order to deter undesirables from loitering. If they played Hip-Hop, they would attract a better class of hooligan. When I come to Cornwall, I want to hear the sound of waves, not the brusque tones of John Humphreys. I get him every day in London, and that’s quite enough for me. I usually switch him off.’

This is my last word, I promise you for some time on this well-worn subject. But I can’t resist repeating G.K. Chesterton’s admirable quote: ‘Music with dinner is an insult both to the cook and the violinist.’