This afternoon I went to the grocery store (Food Pavilion) and while I was shopping I noticed that the piped-in store music was instrumental and melodic, older tunes that I recognized but that were from my parents' era, sort of big-bandish. It was almost like Muzak, the store music of my youth. I liked it.
There are times when I'm in a grocery store and the music is so pounding that I think, Please. We're rocking out a bit too much, here.
Coincidentally, I recently read an article about supermarket music that linked to a much longer article by Mark Steyn about Alan Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind. It contains this paragraph:
But Bloom is writing about rock music the way someone from the pre-rock generation experiences it. You’ve no interest in the stuff, you don’t buy the albums, you don’t tune to the radio stations, you would never knowingly seek out a rock and roll experience—and yet it’s all around you. You go to buy some socks, and it’s playing in the store. You get on the red eye to Heathrow, and they pump it into the cabin before you take off. I was filling up at a gas station the other day and I noticed that outside, at the pump, they now pipe pop music at you. This is one of the most constant forms of cultural dislocation anybody of the pre-Bloom generation faces: Most of us have prejudices: we may not like ballet or golf, but we don’t have to worry about going to the deli and ordering a ham on rye while some ninny in tights prances around us or a fellow in plus-fours tries to chip it out of the rough behind the salad bar. Yet, in the course of a day, any number of non-rock-related transactions are accompanied by rock music. I was at the airport last week, sitting at the gate, and over the transom some woman was singing about having two lovers and being very happy about it. And we all sat there as if it’s perfectly routine. To the pre-Bloom generation, it’s very weird—though, as he notes, “It may well be that a society’s greatest madness seems normal to itself.” Whether or not rock music is the soundtrack for the age that its more ambitious proponents tout it as, it’s a literal soundtrack: it’s like being in a movie with a really bad score.
I don't like loudness in general. I dislike it in restaurants when music plays so loudly that you have to bellow at the friends with whom you dine. It's not just loud music; I like less noise in general. I commute about half and hour each direction to work, and I generally don't turn on the radio. Even audio recordings of books get on my nerves after a while--this voice going on and on.
So I guess my attitude toward background music is: If you must have it, then let it be as unintrusive as possible.