Mad Cow Madness

Letter From Paris

One of the hallmarks of our crazy, crazed, and increasingly raucous age is the insidious war that is being waged in most regions of the Western world against silence, virtually blackballed as an undesirable, something to be avoided at almost any cost, lest it induce boredom and reduce one to a piteous state of solitary rumination.  It is virtually impossible today to ring up a business office, a travel agency, an airline, or a railway station without, while waiting for your respondent, being force-fed with music—much as the poor geese of Alsace and the Dordogne are stuffed with grain and corn to produce foie gras, or as the milk cows in many countries of Western Europe have been encouraged to ingurgitate vast quantities of ultramodern, protein-enriched, technically carnified meal to supplement old-fashioned fodder.

A few years ago, an ingenious scientistwhose name I have forgotten decided to subject a “group”—one can no longer use the word “herd” for such captive creatures—of milk cows to this kind of sonic “entertainment.”  The carefully stalled cows were alternately lulled or stimulated by generous doses or Bach, Mozart, Haydn, Schubert—Beethoven, I believe, was excluded a priori as too violent and upsetting—as well as to more modern rhythms, to see if this auricular enchantment might improve the quality of the milk coaxed from bloated...

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