Thursday, 10 February 2011

Jukebox jury

This may be an urban myth, but here goes.

In the days of pub juke-boxes, when it was the drinkers themselves who got to choose the music to accompany their drinking, rather than have the bar's owners foist upon them some landfill-type noise which, market research had shown, resulted in people buying more drinks, there existed in one particular pub a juke-box with a twist. You could put in your money and buy three minutes of silence.

For all I know it may have been not just any old silence either, but that famous one by John Cage whose length in seconds is deliberately the same as the number, in degrees below zero, of the coldest temperature physically possible (and no I can't resist the urge to say, how cool is that?). Somewhat longer than three minutes, the piece should, apparently, be played in three movements. Which in turn begs the question, what should the intervals between the movements sound like?

If the said pub ever really existed, I wonder, how often people availed themselves of this unique choice? Did the bar-staff occasionally wander on over and select the silence as a break in the evening's racket? Did people rush to buy their drinks in the short interlude in which they knew they'd be heard? Did people, as a result, end up buying more drinks?

Or did the idea die because people just felt awkward, thinking they had to make conversation because there was nothing to listen to all of a sudden?

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