I often play soft jazz, classical, or some other form of non intrusive background music in my classroom. First of all, it stops the inevitable moment when the room is actually quiet because everyone is working and then someone says, “It’s so quiet in here!” Which, of course, leads everyone to talk again. Having music on in the background keeps it from being so silent that someone’s chair squeaking doesn’t sound like the bridge over the River Kwai collapsing, or the zipper on their pencil bag from sounding like a diesel train running through a tunnel full bore. You think I’m kidding? You put 26 teenagers in a room and see what it sounds like when they are actually quiet, and then suddenly someone makes a noise. God forbid someone burp, or worse. Your class is basically done at that point unless you’ve got some solid management skills and you know how to tamp down without making them resentful of you ruining a funny moment.
Today as I was selecting music I went with Jazz and started class and the kids were all working peacefully. I found I started to drift a bit because I’d had a less than a full night’s sleep and I was a little tired and caffeine hadn’t kicked in yet. I’m a professional and I caught myself thinking random thoughts while I was waiting for the class to finish writing the answer to a question and snapped myself back but I was wondering if there was a connection to the kind of music or if it was my lack of sleep that made me feel like I wanted to kick back and do a little daydreaming.
I don’t find music in the dentist’s office or doctor’s waiting room has that effect on me. I don’t hear the music at the clothing store and feel like I want to just sit and daydream…but thinking about the number of places we hear music in our day to day lives made me wonder how big a role music plays in our lives when we aren’t even aware of it. I took some time as I was running errands this afternoon to listen to the music I heard at each stop from the rock at the oil change shop, to the classical at the clothing store, to the country at the dentists office, to the NPR news at the post office. Each place had its own ‘feel’ to it, and I’d never really stopped to think about why. Next time you’re out and about, take time to stop and think about the music you hear and see if you can see a difference in how it makes you feel about the place you are. It’s an interesting experiment in our perceptions that are built around music and sound.