His­tory just keeps on re­peat­ing it­self…

BBC Music Magazine - - Thefullscore -

Who wants a bland ‘beep’ telling you to fas­ten your seat-belt? Not Lin­coln car driv­ers, we’re told. For its new Avi­a­tor SUV range, the mo­tor man­u­fac­tur­ers in­vited three Detroit Sym­phony

Orches­tra mu­si­cians to com­pose, play and record the tunes to be used in the cars’ warn­ing sys­tems, rang­ing from a ‘hard warn­ing’ played on the marimba to a vi­o­lin-based ‘non-crit­i­cal alert’. Great idea, but it’s by no means the first time that mu­sic has been used as a means to pro­vide an alert…

From Ro­man times, when cor­nua (horns) were played to in­struct troops to at­tack or retreat, brass in­stru­ments con­tin­ued to play a role in bat­tle, their tunes grow­ing in com­plex­ity – when Haydn vis­ited London in the 1790s, he noted some of them down and quoted one in his ‘Mil­i­tary’ Sym­phony No. 100. It was dur­ing World War II, mean­while, that the BBC in­tro­duced its Into Bat­tle ra­dio pro­gramme with Lil­libulero, a tune that was later used as the ‘in­ter­val sig­nal’ to alert lis­ten­ers that they’d found the right point on the dial while no trans­mis­sions were on air. Talk­ing of in­ter­vals, con­cert halls and opera houses to­day are in­creas­ingly us­ing mu­sic to re­call au­di­ences back from the bar – not least the Royal Opera House, which com­mis­sions young com­posers to write tunes specif­i­cally for that pur­pose. And let’s not for­get the home. Own­ers of var­i­ous Sam­sung wash­ing ma­chines have be­come ac­cus­tomed to hear­ing Schu­bert’s Trout Quin­tet let­ting them know that their clothes are washed, spun and ready to hang out… and hope­fully not smelling of fish.

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