Aug 30

Music on Hold

by Anton Schwartz

Of all the many occasions in the world—and it seems there’s no shortage of them—where music is selected by people without a taste for it, we get to hear some of the most painful results on the phone while we’re waiting on hold.

Here’s an example I’ve heard on several phone systems that makes me cringe every time:

Did you hear the wrong note in the melody ten seconds in? The major third over the poignant iv minor chord? Right at the piece’s culminating moment… ack!

Here’s another I heard today that’s a bit more subtle, and I thought I’d post about it because it’s so typical of the playing of intermediate jazz musicians.

Good time, good groove, good changes… but the track is filled with rambling piano lines that fit in that odd category of “not exactly wrong, but certainly not right.” I only grabbed this short clip but it shows what I’m talking about pretty well. The pianist sounds fine at times when she or he (let’s go with he) is arpeggiating, but when he’s playing scales he seems to go up and down without any sense of the harmonic cadence for the chords behind him. He lands on chordtones and non-chordtones indiscriminately, without concern for which falls where rhythmically. Recognize this sound? It might not even sound so wrong in isolation… until you listen to Wynton Kelly… or Herbie Hancock… or… and remember what lines are supposed to sound like.

Anyhow, big props to Apple… they’re the only company whose phone systems ask me whether I’d like to listen to music at all. Sometimes silence is golden.

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