Sunday, May 07, 2006


I'm listening to the 2006 Reith Lectures on the BBC at the moment. Orchestra conductor Daniel Barenboim is lecturing about the relationship between music and society. Anyway, I had to share the following snippet from the 2nd lecture:
And the most extraordinary example of offensive usage of music, because it underlines some kind of association which I fail to recognise, was shown to me one day when watching the television in Chicago and seeing a commercial of a company called American Standard. And it showed a plumber running very very fast in great agitation, opening the door to a toilet and showing why this company actually cleans the toilet better than other companies. And you know what music was played to that?
The Lachrymose [sic] from Mozart's Requiem. Now ladies and gentlemen, I'm sorry, I'm probably immodest enough to think I have a sense of humour but I can't laugh at this. And I laugh even less when I read some, a document which I've brought here to read to you in its entirety. It was published, I'm afraid I don't know in what newspaper, but it is the Editor's note. The following is a letter sent in by Christine Statmuller of Basking Ridge, it is in reference to her previous letter which ran in the April issue of The Catholic Spirit. 'Thanks for printing my letter in which I objected to the use of music from Mozart's Requiem by American Standard to advertise their new champion toilet. As you can see from the enclosed letter below, it achieved results, thanks to the letters from other incensed readers.' And the letter is as follows:- 'Thank you for contacting American Standard with your concerns about the background music in the current television commercial for our champion toilet. We appreciate that you have taken the time to communicate with us, and share your feelings on a matter that clearly is very important to you.'
'When we first selected Mozart's Requiem, we didn't know of its religious significance.'
'We actually learned about it from a small number of customers like you, who also contacted us. Although there is ample precedent for commercial use of spiritually theme music, we have decided to change to a passage from Wagner's Tannhauser Overture,'
'which music experts have assured us does not have religious importance.'
'The new music will begin airing in June.'
I think that says it all!

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