Seasons not to taste on helplines;Opinion

1st October 1999 at 01:00
I DON'T imagine that Antonio Vivaldi ever guessed that one day he would be the world's most detested composer.

The Four Seasons is a nice enough piece of music but not when you're hanging on a computer helpline and your neck is beginning to ache from the position you adopted several hours ago in order to be able to continue other useful tasks - tidy CDs, sharpen pencils, pick nose - while waiting for some supposed saviour to pick up the bloody phone and talk to you.

Helplines are the horror of our age. They hold out hope where there is none because when you finally do get to speak to someone you know he will be incapable of the one thing you want from him - help.

In my long hours of frustration this week I have learned three things I did not know before 1: although my particular helpline is run by the company who sold me the hardware and software its operatives are only allowed to support hardware enquiries, which mine, alas, isn't; 2: helpline boys are recruited solely for their ability to remain calm no matter how irate I become about this nonsensical demarcation; 3: there is no sound more depressing than the words "I'll have to put you back on hold for a moment" followed by another burst of The Four Sodding Seasons.

After a week of utter Helpline Hell I doubt if I will ever be able to listen to Sgr Vivaldi again. My friend Wild Rosemary has a similar aversion to Grieg's Morning from Peer Gynt because her old school always played it before assembly, every day for seven years. I also know of two extremely cultured opera buffs who were stranded in Pisa airport once and put off Puccini for life by a tape loop of his arias on the Tannoy.

Music is one of the greatest achievements of our civilisation. An abstract form, it is nevertheless capable of conjuring up great emotions. It can speak of love and passion, of forgiveness or the wonder of nature. It moves us to tears or a belief in the divine. It should not be used as an aural sedative in schools, supermarkets and restaurants nor should it be interposed between disgruntled consumers and a so-called helpline. If our children are to value music it needs to be treated with greater respect.

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