For the first time in forever, my summer holidays have included a rather large proportion of very popular tourist attractions. Motivation was personal rather than professional, but while going through the experience of visiting I could not help but notice the importance and use of music in various shapes and forms so decided to have a quick look on our brilliant music resources to try to find out more about this phenomenon. Let’s have a look at what happened in the following types of attractions in France: palace, bridge, museum, theme park, tower.
For the same personal reason as going in the first place (i.e. working through a small part of the wish list of a seven year old), we started renting, or at least noticing, the use of audio guides, which were available at palace, bridge and museum. Audio guide critic, aged seven, had some very interesting comments which gave food for thought.
One famous stop was Avignon, including a visit to the Palais des Papes and the Pont Saint-Bénézet. The Palais des Papes guide was what one would expect. Some information, nothing too deep, occasionally enlivened by some early intro music and some excerpts of pieces of chapel repertoire. Comment from the critic: Is that all? Why does it suddenly stop? – I happened to agree with that one. After spending quite a few hours there I was simply too hot to pick up yet another audioguide at the bridge (a bridge is a bridge right, and we all know the story). With hindsight this turned out to be a mistake. We were surrounded by people who did and the oh so famous song was absolutely everywhere in about six or seven different styles (including, if I remember correctly, jazz and different types of dance music). Being hot and bothered on the remains of a historical bridge, or being hot and bothered AND distracted by the omnipresence of one single tune are two very different experiences and concepts. Earworm number one stayed with us for quite some time…
… until we arrived in Disneyland. As theme parks go it was certainly impressive and everyone knows August is a busy month with queueing an inevitable part of the experience. Disney being Disney, music is an integral part of the core concept of the theme park. It is essential. Contrary to palace, museum and bridge, you simply cannot have Disneyland without Disney music. Each section of the park (Fantasyland, Adventureland, Frontierland, Discoveryland) and the studios came with their own loops of themed music. The themed restaurants again each have themed music. There is quite a lot of literature about Disney and music and if you feel inspired to explore this further, we have a great collection of sheet music for reference at the University Library collections. What puzzled me was why this otherwise so well run and organized place has themed loops of music that are way too short. We heard Colonel Hathi’s march at least three times while eating an ice cream. I could only think of two possible explanations. Either we were so exhausted it took us a very long time to eat that ice cream or the loops are deliberately short. The parade also used one single theme song (earworm number x²):
If you’re interested (as I was) to find out why music is used as it is in Disney themeparks I would recommend, as a starting point, reading: “Whole New Worlds”: Music and the Disney Theme Park Experience, by Charles Carson. Ethnomusicology Forum, Vol. 13, No. 2 (Nov., 2004), pp. 228-235 (available online for our library users).
Final stop was Paris. Famous stops: Louvre and Eiffel tower. The Louvre audioguide was in a different league altogether from the Avignon ones and was given full marks by our audioguide critic. The guide is a Nintendo machine with so much information, video, 3D zoom (as well as the usual early intro music for the appropriate paintings) that we managed to see significant parts of the collections (until the battery ran out). It’s also available as an audioguide app. Although the musical aspect wasn’t particularly striking or exceptional, what it did have in common with the guide to Avignon bridge was the concept of the guide as entertainment value. Whilst in my own grown up world I simply expected them to be informative, audioguide critic aged seven judges otherwise. I don’t think I’m saying much except that music, amongst other features, has been used for specific purposes and manages to add whole new dimensions to otherwise very different experiences.
We ended our trip in the queues for the Eiffel tower which were blissfully music free.
Next year Legoland perhaps? I’m sure that as during this holiday, everything will be awesome, although I hope queueing for hours on end listening to a loop that’s significantly shorter than the queueing time won’t be part of the experience.