From time to time there is story about classical music being used as a means of repelling undesirable elements at a business establishment. The most recent stories are about a 7-11 in Modesto and another in Chico which play classical music and opera in order to deter the indigent who haunt the exteriors of many a 7-11.
Back in the day, we used to do the same thing at Tower Records on Sports Arena. At 11:45 pm, 15 minutes before closing, I would put on what I thought would be the most annoying piece of classical music in order to motivate the nocturnal browsers who were welcome to shop as long as they wanted.
The go-to recording at the time was Michael Bolton’s opera arias album. That is a truly disturbing vocal display. Although I must admit that from time to time it is obvious that Bolton had the vocal talent to be an opera singer. I prefer his rendition of “Nessun Dorma” to that of Andrea Bocelli.
The article about the Modesto 7-11 brings up the question of which classical music pieces are played. It’s a good question. Give the homeless too much Chopin and they might never leave.
I am not a fan of weaponizing classical music and I find the practice to be downright depressing. However, here is a brief list of classical music which I think would be unappealing to the uninitiated.
Gavin Bryars: Jesus Blood Never Failed Me Yet. How about an hour and 14 minutes of a homeless man singing “Jesus blood never failed me yet” over and over and over? In some aspects that is what Bryars does here. On the other hand Tom Waits sings a duet with the recording of the homeless man and Bryars is constantly changing the instruments which accompany the audio loop. This is one of my personal favorites. I find it to be a piece of profound contemplation. Yet to many it is an aural death by a thousand identical cuts.
"Jesus Blood Never Failed Me Yet"
Krzysztof Penderecki: Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima. This music came into the mainstream via Stanley Kubrick’s movie The Shining. Given the subject matter, it's not supposed to be pleasant music which celebrates the human spirit. This is the music of fear, loss, anxiety, and devastation.
"Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima"
Opera is easily the most difficult artform for anyone to appreciate. Yet once one understands the rules of opera the devotion becomes almost absolute.
This one is difficult because of The Shawshank Redemption. Playing the “Letter Duet” from Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro, as does the character Andy Dufresne, will beguile even the coarsest of ears. I would say that Tristan und Isolde by Richard Wagner is the opera of operas. Even opera-goers find Tristan to be a challenge.
Tristan und Isolde
Wagner's opera of operas