Over Christmas Break in 2002-2003 I was in a hardware store in the Mission District
of San Francisco. While I was getting keys made, one of the employees started
to chat me up. She was a heavyset woman with numerous ear piercings (upwards of
twenty in each ear), closely cropped hair, bright eyes and a friendly and enthusiastic
face. After some initial small talk about the holidays, she asked me what I thought
of the music that was playing in the background. It was some sort of Christmas
Jazz Sampler. She told me that this CD was getting a much better reaction from
the customers than the previous CD (also a CJS) had. I asked her what she meant
by reaction. Did she want the customers to dance? Sing along, perhaps? What was
she looking for exactly? She said that the CD that was currently playing seemed
to have the effect of smoothing out the mood of the customers. The previous recording,
she said, was higher in pitch, harsher in tone, and was less relaxing to the listeners.
“Do you study tones?” she asked. “I,” I said, “am
a Music Theorist.” She smiled and gave me my change.