Interesting research on the music/brain front from the London Tube, where, according to the Guardian, “tube bosses will use recordings of Pavarotti recitals, Vivaldi, and Mozart in a battle against anti-social behaviour at 35 stations in the District, East London, Metropolitan, and Hammersmith & City Lines.

The initiative, announced yesterday by Metronet, LU’s maintenance contractor, follows a trial at four east London stations which prompted a 33% drop in abuse against staff.

An LU spokeswoman said: “This is aimed at youths, mainly young teenagers who hang about at stations. The science seems to be that the music is unfamiliar to them and also that it’s considered uncool.””

This deserves a full-on Proven by Science shredding (“The science seems to be that the music is unfamiliar to them”?! Egads!) but here are a few quick thoughts. It’s interesting that the trial took place in East London; I’m immediately getting fanciful visions in my head of ragtag grime crews being forced to listen to Vivaldi and scowling. This is all a little suspect, isn’t it? The brief article quotes a psychologist–or rather, paraphrases a psychologist, putting any potential fragments of actual science into the most vague, general terms possible:

“Adrian North, a psychologist at Leicester University, said there was evidence from nightclubs, doctors’ surgeries and dentists’ waiting rooms that playing calming music could could have an impact on behaviour.”

“could have an impact on behavior” — everything has an impact on behavior! The question is, what kind of impact? What kind of behavior? What relationship is there between said impact and said behavior? Why the tenor bellowings of massive-lung’d Pavarotti, of all people–opera can be intrusive and oppressive, it’s hardly the most “calming” form of music, I would venture to say–along with the baroque stylings of Vivaldi and that bad boy Mozart, the unwitting father of the (almost entirely discredited) “Mozart effect”?

The ‘33% drop in abuse among staff’ figure is also suspect. How many numbers were used to create a 33% figure? If there were 3 incidents total, and it was curbed by 1, then the sample size is so small as to be totally meaningless and arbitrary. Meanwhile, I’m guessing that the ‘thugs’ in question will just turn up the volume on their headphones.