New Zealand Pipedown starting up?

Susan Davis is hoping to start up a New Zealand Pipedown. It is very early days yet for the new group so please contact Pipedown UK  for her e-mail address if you live in – or often visit – New Zealand and would like to be involved. We can then send you her contact details.

And remember: Charles Wetherbee, the renowned violinist, is considering co-founding Pipedown USA. If you live in the USA or Canada and hate piped music, contact him


Quieter shopping malls: the Birmingham Experiment

The Bullring in Birmingham, home to one of Britain’s largest shopping malls, has been experimenting with quieter music. For years pounding pop music has filled almost every corner and shoppers, of all ages and tastes, have had to tolerate it or leave. Now an experiment by Hammerson, which runs several shopping malls across Britain and is thinking of phasing out music because of its effect on shoppers, has shown that replacing clamourous loud music with softer ambient music – not blended ‘muzak’ but a sound closer to the sea – influences shoppers positively. They move less rapidly and seem to spend more. The results are still tentative but suggest that less noise equals more sales, at least initially. Pipedowners might prefer no background music at all but this sea music is better than, say, canned Vivaldi and certainly an improvement. But it would be interesting to see the effects of no music at all. Julian Treasure, chairman of the Sound Agency, is involved in the experiment.


Spanish Quiet Eating Group started

Intrusive background piped music is a problem plaguing diners around the world, so the founding of  a similar group in Spain is welcome news.  Svante Borjesson has started a Madrid-based group, Comer Sin Ruido (eating without noise) at   He is concerned with all types of noise – a problem aggravated by the ‘hard surfaces’ favoured by too many designers at present, which echo or amplify background noises. He includes unwanted background music among the things that can wreck enjoyment of a meal. The site has a list of about 20 quiet restaurants around Spain, some with Michelin stars.

Anyone looking for, or knowing of, a quiet place to eat in Spain can contact  him at

Acoustic marmite in the British Museum? No thanks! say visitors – and The Times

The ‘Celtic music’ piped around the Celts: Art and Identity exhibition in the British Museum has been annoying visitors. One found the music ‘excruciating’; another advised people to take earplugs. Luke Turner, editor of The Quietus, an online magazine about music, said the music detracted from an otherwise enjoyable experience. ‘[It] felt like a real cliché of what you’d imagine Celtic music to be… like a “Celtic Moods” CD.’  The Times  devoted a leader (16 October) to  it, saying that ‘if people want music in museums let them plug it into their own ears.’  This is the first time a major national newspaper has discussed background music in a leader.

Dr Julia Farley, the exhibition’s curator, said she wanted to destroy any air of reverent silence, but she admitted the ‘Celtic music’ was a ‘bit of a marmite thing‘ i.e. you love it or loathe it. Unwittingly, she has revealed the misconception underlying most unwanted piped music. For while no one is ever actually forced to eat marmite in a restaurant (or anywhere else), far too often we are are forced to listen to music we hate. The final effects – irritation and alienation – are the exact opposite  of what the proponents of background music generally claim.

Background music can endanger surgical operations

It is well known that some surgeons play music (which will be of their choice but not possibly of rest of their team) during operations. Now a study suggests this may affect the skills of their surgical teams. Using an analysis of video footage from 20 operations, a report in the Journal of Advanced Nursing of 5 August 2015 of a UK study shows ‘that some operating theatre teams are negatively affected by background music during surgery. Communication within the theatre team can be impaired when music is playing… requests from a surgeon to a nurse for instruments or supplies were often repeated and there was qualitative evidence of frustration or tension within some teams.’ Conversely,  new reports suggest that patients to whom music is played before and after operations may feel less pain and recover better. The vital point here, easily overlooked, is that patients may well find music of their own choice and taste soothing. But music they do not like or want will have the opposite effect. As musical tastes are more varied than they have ever been, freedom to choose the type of music (if any) they listen to is the issue. At present, that freedom is far too often lacking in hospitals.

Pipedown pushes for legislation to ban hospital piped music

Inside the  House of Commons, with its many newly elected MPs,  Pipedown hopes to get a Private Member’s Bill to ban unwanted background music and television in hospitals. Such a bill is badly needed to save the sanity of people who suffer  from such truly inescapable music/television. (See the booklet Whose Choice is it Anyway? 2012, for details of their torment. Copies as pdfs available free to members from Pipedown). Unlike in shops, hotels, restaurants etc, people seldom have a real choice when going into hospital. They are also often at their most vulnerable there. Recognising these special factors, two politicians have attempted to introduce  Private Member’s Bills: Robert Key, then MP for Salisbury, in the House of Commons and Tim Beaumont, the only Green Party peer, in the House of Lords. Neither succeeded but they pioneered the idea that piped music is an issue on which legislation is needed.

Yet it remains an idea that ministers and civil servants are unwilling to accept. Such official reluctance does not mean that all MPs are indifferent or hostile to the concept – some may be as enthusiastic as Robert Key was, others will be broadly sympathetic.  As MPs have no way of knowing  what concerns their constituents unless they are told, it is up to everyone dismayed by unwanted television and music in hospitals to let their MP know.

Write or email your MPs, suggesting they support – or even better, propose – a Private Member’s Bill to ban music and also television which, blaring away nonstop, can turn any ward into acoustic hell. Patients who wish to listen to television or their own music, as many do, can do so through headphones, so they will not suffer any deprivation. When enough MPs have been alerted, and their responses collated (by being sent on to Pipedown), we aim to to start intensive lobbying inside Westminster itself.

The government line is still that whether or not a hospital has background music or television is solely a matter for the local NHS trust and not its concern. This approach is useless if you find yourself in a ward where television or music is playing non-stop. In truth, the issue does not interest the central government, yet it intervenes in many areas of national life, including health, when it wants to. We need to alert enough MPs that this is an important health issue so that the message reaches Jeremy Hunt at the Department of Health loud and clear. 

So write to your MP, whether he/she is newly elected or not – and whether or not you are actually a member of Pipedown. (MPs who currently hold a government post cannot propose Private Members’ Bills but they can support one. And they may not be in office for ever.)


Which? magazine publishes list of muzac-infested shops

Following its long-running debate on piped music in shops (see, Which? magazine has published a short piece on the subject.

No surprise to see that the Co-op is named as the worst-offending supermarket chain, with Marks & Spencer as the worst department store.    (Not by coincidence, both have been doing badly in recent years.)  These findings echo those from our Quiet Corners’ Competition (see earlier entry.)

Which? magazine does not, however, suggest doing more than asking for the music to be turned down. It should be starting/leading a campaign to roll back the music.

Nicola Benedetti protests against forced music on planes

Nicola Benedetti, the award-winning violinist, has just tweeted to her followers: “Why is it necessary to subject us all to loud pop music on the plane? It’s like being forced to eat something you don’t want” She was travelling with Vueling, a Spanish airline (you have been warned!)  Vueling replied, saying the music was supposed to be enjoyable. Nicola thanked them for their reply but went on to say, “Quiet is a rare and precious thing these days. I think many of us would enjoy that more”. In July 2014 Nicola, who is 28, went into the Top Twenty of the Top of the Pops with her recording of Max Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy, written in 1880.  

Losing the sounds of nature

Rising levels of background noise in some areas threaten to make people oblivious to the soothing yet inspiring sounds of birdsong, trickling water and trees rustling in the wind, natural sounds which can often be heard even in city centres, said Kurt Fristrup, a scientist at the US National Park Service.

The problem was worsened by people always listening to iPods and similar machines through earphones instead of tuning in to the birds and other natural sounds that can be drowned out by traffic, music and others noises, he said.

“This learned deafness is a real issue,” Fristrup told the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in San Jose. “We are conditioning ourselves to ignore the information coming into our ears. This gift that we are born with – to reach out and hear things hundreds of metres away, all these incredible sounds – is in danger of being lost through a generational amnesia . There is a real danger, both of loss of auditory acuity, where we are exposed to noise for so long that we stop listening, but also a loss of listening habits, where we lose the ability to engage with the environment the way we were built to”.

Much the same addiction to non-stop music  afflicts people who expect ubiquitous and ceaseless piped music in every shop, restaurant, pub…