There’s a 15th century coaching Inn that I try to stay at when I working in a particular location. I like it because of the convivial atmosphere, excellent food, cleanliness, roaring coal fires, comfort, and the oak beams in the bedroom. It’s also full of that one thing that so many pub chains try to capture without success – character.

Character can be a difficult thing to define: It’s a combination of  diverse qualities, which can include age, history, conviviality, quirkiness, luxuriance and something more that’s hard to put one’s finger on… But we know it when it’s present. The place I stay ticks pretty much all those boxes, but it’s the quirks that can catch you completely unawares, mainly because they simply don’t fit with the expectations of a 15th century coaching Inn!

There’s one thing in particular that catches me every time: The music that plays in the background to accompany your evening meal and whilst you unwind in the bar over a quiet drink.

I’ve no idea who is tasked with putting together the playlists, but I can only conclude that they either don’t know or care about what they’re doing, have a wickedly playful streak, or are totally bonkers, (or maybe a combination of those things). The first time that the musical selection caused me to raise an amused eyebrow in surprise was one evening sometime in August a couple of years ago… When the strains of Christmas music accompanied my evening meal. Since that fateful day, I’ve learned to pay a little more attention to what I’m hearing, because it makes for fascinating listening.

The mix is eclectic, to say the least – everything from choral pieces to rock ‘n’ roll and rave. The last occasion I was there, I was serenaded by an evening of Welsh folk songs, which inexplicably gave way, mid evening, to Iron Maiden, Limp Bizkit, AC/DC and a plethora of heavy metal bands… It was all rather interesting, and I must say, enjoyable too – although if I’m totally honest, I enjoyed the heavy metal more than the heartfelt folk!

In fact, it brought to mind the strange mix you become attuned to when wandering the sims of SL with the audio stream turned on.

You never quite know what to expect when streaming music inworld. In the space of a few steps you can be subjected to a range of music covering more genres than you can shake a stick at and quite a few that you didn’t even know existed. One minute, you’re being serenaded by Vivaldi, and the next it’s Trent Reznor assaulting your eardrums. You effortlessly skip from ambient to classical, then crash headfirst into techno-trance, hip hop, garage and classic 60s,and somehow it all seems terribly natural and doesn’t jar with us in the slightest. All of which is a little odd, since if we were listening to a radio station that took the same approach, we’d almost certainly get very frustrated with it, before eventually changing channels.

Perhaps we don’t mind so much because those who do set up audio streams for their parcels do tend – although not always – to be fairly selective with their choice of music, using sound to enhance the atmosphere and complement the overall theme, whether it’s an upbeat and modern radio station enlivening the shop floor and putting you in the mood for spending, or the hard rock accompaniment to a biker’s hangout – like the decor and scenery, the audio stream can set the mood, reinforce the illusion of reality and subtly direct our unconscious perception into the concept the creator wants us to appreciate. It develops the character of the setting in much the same manner as history, elegance and atmosphere develop the essential character of a real world setting. In a way it’s a form of subliminal messaging!

And that causes me to wonder about the music that plays in the background at my quirky hostelry… Perhaps they’re trying to subliminally message me; implanting ideas into my head and making unconscious suggestions for their own purpose.

The only thing is, with that bizarre mix of music  I have absolutely no idea what their agenda might be!

s. x

You’ve got the music in you
Don’t let go
You’ve got the music in you
One dance left
This world is gonna pull through
Don’t give up
New Radicals – You Get What You Give

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