Classical music - a potent weapon in the drug war

To most people, listening to music by Wagner or Beethoven gives them an esthetic experience, sometimes even solace, peace of mind and honey for the soul. Not so for the drug addicts loitering at the Hovedbangården (Main railway station) in Copenhagen, Denmark.

One of the Hovedbangården side entrances, in the direction of the Vesterbro district of Copenhagen, used for years to be a haven for loitering gangs of drug addicts and their large menacing dogs. The photo-booth was used as a sanitary convenience. Ordinary passengers were reluctant to use the Vesterbro entrance and gave it a wide berth.

Canned classics

Enter Meterion Music, a Danish specialist on canned music for shopping-malls. Meterion concocted tapes with "heavier classics", as Benny Rinaldo, director of Meterion Music, puts it. The classical music selection was then played at the Vesterbro entrance - a little louder than usual, by some 3-4 dB, and the frequency of repetition was also somewhat higher.

The result was astounding - the drug-gangs simply disappeared into thin air. Nor have they reappeared in other parts of the Hovedbangården, which are so far free of classical music. These areas are probably too open for police inspection. When police arrived, it was easier for the drug crowd to flee from a secluded side entrance, than from the open main hall of the station. The rather loud music also makes it difficult to conduct the continuous conversations necessary for making drug deals. And - most importantly - drug-addicts are "not a target group for classical music", as director Rinaldo euphemistically states. Ordinary passengers, who pass through the Vesterbro entrance during just 40 seconds on the average, seem not to be disturbed at all by the "heavy classics" blaring from the loudspeakers above.

Expert analysis needed

What are these "heavy classics" that so deeply disgust the drug addicts? On this Meterion director Rinaldo is more vague. He mumbles something about "non-copyrighted stuff", and after some digging in his papers comes up with a few examples: Wagner, Beethoven, Dvorak, Brahms (compositions unspecified), and the Brandenburg Concertos by Johann Sebastian Bach. Maybe a more expert analysis of the classical repertoire could sharpen the musical sword against drugs even more.

Classical music as a weapon in the drug war is not entirely unique to Copenhagen. Similar strategies have reportedly been successfully tried in Hamburg, Germany and Zürich, Switzerland.


Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter, November 26, 2002

Personal interview with Benny Rinaldo, Meterion Music, Copenhagen.

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