How important is music in the perception and experience of behaviour? This is something to ponder at Harju8 restaurant in Kallio, Helsinki, where a passion for music can be heard through the sound system.
Restaurant manager Matthew Whitfield explains that the bistro, wanted the best on a plate - including a platter. No compromises were made with the sound system. The music not only had to accompany the diners and diners, but it also had to blend seamlessly with the mood of the evening, the performers and the genre of music.
Audico supplied five full-range speakers and a subwoofer from L-Acoustics for the space that bends at the bottom. The set-up works in a larger space, but the sound is just as juicy up close. The six-unit system, placed at the ceiling's edge, about four metres, obeys the Altair processor. The ceiling is lined with acoustic panels to soften the sound and prevent echo.
Visiting DJs and musicians can plug their instruments directly into the system. No need to ground them for a gig, thanks to a decent sound system. At the same time, they can arrive with less luggage.
Whitfield explains that at lunchtime and early evening, the hall serves up rhythmically rolling 70s soul, for example. Late at night, the twists and decibels are upped as fresher electronic sounds take over the space.
Different genres, melodies, rhythms and pitches create the atmosphere, so they are directly linked to how people perceive the world around them. Music has been shown to influence expectations, experience, mood and time spent in spaces. Because reactions are so personal and often unconscious, it is pointless to even attempt to generalise about the precise effects of every rally recorded in the world.
Although music psychology is a controversial field, there is still plenty of research data available. The effects are significant. The tempo, or speed, of music has a direct effect on how fast people act and move. In department stores, for example, calm music encourages people to linger longer.
Music that feeds positive associations enables people to have a positive attitude towards the product they are about to buy. It is on the dance floor of a restaurant that a DJ's professionalism is measured. How to maximise the number of swaying hips when there are many musical tastes? How to react when the movement on the floor stops? Of course, the most famous DJs don't have this problem, because people come to hear them.
Classical music has been studied a lot. In a café environment, people's choices are dominated by food dishes when the strings are sawing, while snacks and soft drinks do better when the more popular tunes are blaring. Classical music also leads people to choose more expensive wines, possibly driven by perceived grandeur or quality.
For music is an unstoppable force. Every day it influences how we experience the spaces and situations in which we find ourselves. Background music is a contradictory term. It never stays just in the background.
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