Program Audio

"Program audio" is our term for canned music, radio, and television soundtrack, particularly when provided as a "background" in places where people gather. We call it that for two reasons:

1. Most obviously, it is a "program" that plays without regard for the response of the audience. (In this respect we make a distinction between, for example, the old-fashioned organ-playing at a sports event, and the modern playing of recorded music in stadiums and arenas. The organist interacts with the fans; the recorded music does not.)

2. The purpose of program audio in public places is to induce a programmed response in us, the audience. Whether the sound is intended to soothe, excite, instill the urge to buy, or simply add some vague emotional content to an experience, it is meant to manipulate us.

Program audio is particularly insidious because it encourages passivity and conformity: like so much else in our modern society, it calls on us to be consumers, mere sponges, rather than thinkers and doers with spontaneous responses.

Even when program audio is pushed on us with good intentions, the underlying assumption is an insulting one: that our empty heads need to be kept filled with artificial stimuli so that we do not become insufferably bored.

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