Classical music calms 'rowdy' Paris commuters

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Ann Törnkvist - [email protected]
Classical music calms 'rowdy' Paris commuters
Train commuters in the Paris region have chosen to play classical music on platforms. Some observers see it as a move to ward off gangs of youths. File photo: Beyrouth/Flickr

Train stations in the Paris region have begun blasting classical music on to platforms, in what some observers see as a move to calm down youths who might otherwise attack or hassle fellow commuters.


Rail network SNCF has begun playing classical music on platforms along its J, L and RER A lines, after a competition inviting commuters in the Paris region to choose which melodies they would like to listen to on their daily slog to work.

"After a bit of experimenting at the Poissy station, we listened to the feedback from clients and interviewed passengers who said that classical music made their journey more pleasant," head of the project Bruno Rocher told online magazing StreetPress.

The competition "Choose the musical atmosphere for your station" was rolled out along the J and L lines of the Transilien commuter trains and along the A line of the RER. 

The prize? A trip in the conductor's cabin. 

A statement fom the Ile-de-France commuter network underscored the soothing effect of classical music.

"From Chopin to Beethoven via Mozart, a testing phase has shown that the passengers appreciate this atmosphere that has made the stations more serene and pleasant," said Transilien.

Related: Ten tips to avoid getting robbed on the Paris Metro

Yet that serenity may be about more than introducing the musical canon to harried commuters.

StreetPress reported finding a year-old blog post from the network operators for line J, stating that classical music could be a handy tool in the fight against anti-social behaviour. 

"We are undertaking several actions to stand up against incivility," the statement, dated May 2012 said, adding that its employees were up against young people who effectively used the stations and trains as their own spaces.

"(They) squat at the stations and the accompanying behaviour (smoking, spitting, shouting, and listening to music) affects public order and creates unease," read the statement, 

"From now on, when our employees identify a group of young people that gives the impression of creating trouble, they can play classical music."

"Imagine, it works! Subjecting these persons to tunes they are not familiar with has the added benefit of making them flee," the statement added. 

The statement was removed by the train operators after media attention, however.  A spokesperson for the SNCF, the national train operators, said there was no link between the new initiative "Musique en Gare" and any previous attempts to quell anti-social behaviour.

"We're not coming at it from the same view point. We were made to understand that passengers, on their way home from work, were a bit stressed while they waited for their train," said SNCF.

"We want to make that moment a bit more zen," they added.


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