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Background music to suit the occasion

Deciding on the kind of music to suit the occasion is not trivial. If you are organising an event, you can use music to attract people to attend and to stay. Music is something that fills the emptiness in the ear space. Background music is not obtrusive, interruptive, or distracting. Concert music, on the other hand, is intended for people to listen and not talk.

At an art event many years ago, I was surprised to find the pianist hired for the evening playing loud virtuoso music on a concert grand. The organiser obviously did not prepare the performer for a cocktail evening. Sure he had talent, but it could hardly be appreciated as people struggled to hold conversation. Mellow, background music would have been better for such an occasion.

When I was resident pianist at an airport hotel, I brought sheet music to sight read the entire evening, four times a week. Through trial and error, I figured out what people want. This was a hotel for stranded long-haul travelers, transit passengers, and those wanting to be at the airport. They were not regulars by any means. What they needed was soothing music. Background music makes the familiar tunes sound slightly unfamiliar and the unfamiliar tunes sound familiar. It's not too familiar to stop a conversation and not too unfamiliar to alienate the guests.

Background music for the evening tends to be more romantic, more soothing, and more slow than music for the afternoon. Similarly indoor music can be softer than outdoor music.

Music at a memorial gathering should be somber, such as the nocturnes of Chopin and the tear-jerking themes of films like Schindler's List. For birthdays and other festive occasions, jazz, ragtime, and improvisations of known tunes are more popular than classical music.

When I select the pieces to play for an outdoor garden party, I ask myself, "This is a lovely piece. Does it suit the occasion? Is it cheerful?" Because I have a natural affinity for slow, melodic pieces, I must be careful not to play what I like but what suits the occasion.

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27 August 2005 Saturday

Related links:
Articles on music by Anne Ku
Music at Hotel Claridges
The audition
Overcoming stage fright
Saved by Dan Coates
First requests and tip
A variety of music
Play it again, Anne!
Out of tune and out of sync
No play, no pay
Smoking piano
Italian, Irish, American
Valentine's Day offer
Listeners who appreciate
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Anne Ku at Ilp in May 2001
Anne Ku

writes about her travels, conversations, thoughts, events, music, and anything else that is interesting enough to fill a web page.
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