Displacement by music in neukolln: sounds really weird!

The railroad is going on the offensive acoustically: at the Hermannstrabe S-Bahn station, junkies and drunks are to be chased away with atonal music.

Sheet of music by Arnold Schonberg, creator of atonal twelve-tone music Photo: dpa

Atonal music is quite special. The notes like to hang individually in the air, there are no familiar sequences of sounds. A dissonant chord can stumble in at any time. Or a sequence of notes that ends at some point, but arrives nowhere.

The melody – if you can call it that at all – simply stops, it does not return to any base, to any fundamental, because there is no such thing. Some therefore say: Atonal music has no home.

That sounds pathetic, but perhaps it explains why the pieces are so exhausting to listen to. That’s exactly what the railroad wants to take advantage of now: The Hermannstrabe S-Bahn station in Neukolln is to be sounded with atonal music in order to spoil the stay of unwanted visitors, the press office confirms – in other words, to drive away junkies or drinkers with weird sounds.

The railroad wants to start the acoustic offensive before the end of the year. The sprinkling is not planned for the platform below, but only in the area of the station above; after all, they don’t want to scare away the passengers waiting for the trains.

"We annoy everyone"

BVG already made a similar attempt at the Adenauerplatz subway station in 2010. To drive away the drug scene, classical music was played in the mezzanine. "We realized then: yes, we’re annoying, but we’re annoying everyone," spokeswoman Petra Reetz tells the taz. The music was also getting on the nerves of the employees in the stores. "That wasn’t our intention, so we turned that back off."

That should be less of a problem at Hermannstrabe: The station consists of a glass building with a covered area, a staircase leads down to the tracks of the S-Bahn ring, and there are no stores directly here. Only the passers-by in Neukolln would be briefly bothered by the music.

They should not react too sensitively to such an imposition. Parts of Hermannstrasse are among the eight most crime-ridden places in Berlin, and people are used to a lot here: drug addicts who can’t find a better place than the station steps to openly get high. Drunkards who spend the day here together – against whom the music is precisely directed.

Whether they really give way to the weird sounds and move on remains to be seen. Who knows, maybe one or the other will even recognize themselves in the music? To get stuck somewhere, to arrive nowhere, to have no home, to be exhausting, to irritate others – this is true, after all, for the sounds as well as for many of those they are meant to drive away.

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