The Lights (ultra-violet) of Seattle

When you think of Seattle, there is undoubtedly an entire genre of music that comes to mind, one spawned from the misty environs and which continues to resonate even throughout culture at large in a way that few other types of music do, and it is all the more unusual in that it is known by people who have never heard a dour note of the sound.

Seattle, of course, is the place from whence Starbucks arose, and when people go into their local store (and given that in 2019 there were approximately 15,000 Starbucks outlets in the US, local is absolutely nearby) and order the “regular” coffee, Pike Place, that goes to the Pike Place Market in downtown Seattle, which was a hip farmers’ market before things like that existed.

And Seattle is the home of Microsoft, which has somehow become far less evil than it was once perceived to be (and Bill Gates has gone from a guy who had horns drawn on his picture to one of the few sensible non-political public figures on the planet, which is validated by the fact that there are those of the mouth-breathing set who have conspiratorial views of the man), as well as Boeing—although the company moved its HQ to Chicago, and given everything from the 737 debacle to the fact that British Air has announced that it is going to permanently park its fleet of 747s—and it is the airline with the greatest number of those flying behemoths—it is perhaps not the industrial crown jewel of Seattle as it once was.

Last but certainly not least, there is Amazon, too.

Given the diversity of these things—from Cobain to Bezos (and let’s not forget Tom Robbins became a Seattlite)—there must be something in the. . .coffee.

In 1962, for the World’s Fair being held in Seattle (named the “Century 21 Exposition,” which probably has nothing to do with the real estate firm of that name), the 605-foot Space Needle was opened. (At this point you’re thinking that there isn’t a whole lot of music in this, so know that during the first year the Space Needle was opened, Elvis took the elevator up to the saucer-shaped structure where people can see the planet below, and 31 years later Nirvana did, too. And another musical aspect is that if you take the monorail—yes, part of the Century 21 execution—and get off at the stop for the Space Needle, you’re just as proximate in space to the Frank Gehry-designed Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame, which was founded by the aforementioned Gates’ Microsoft co-founder, the late Paul Allen in 2000; it is now known as the Museum of Pop Culture, and among the pop cultural artifacts are those of Jimi Hendrix, another son of Seattle.)

Of course, COVID-19 shut the Space Needle down. A recent story in GeekWire—another Seattle-based endeavor—details the measures that are being taken by Needle to make it safe to reopen, measures that include visitors—and know that pre-C-19 there were thousands per day some days—passing through Far-UV-C devices that kill the virus (no mere thermal scanning here). What’s more, there is an extensive use of UV lights throughout the structure, including in the elevator cars, which travel outside and which bring in outside air that is treated before it is expelled: there are Far-UV-lights on the ceiling of each of the elevator cars. And there will be elevator operators in each of the cars pushing the buttons, just like in the early days of the elevator.

Elevators are one of the places where there is sometimes that background music being piped in, the music that is like beige wallpaper. Once, this was known as “Muzak,” before the company that owns that brand, stopped using that name. The company is Mood Media, and it is based not in Seattle, but in Austin, about which a similar tour guide could be told, albeit one that would lack the tall structures and rain. Mood Media has a platform called “Harmony,” that is the current source of in-store muzak music.

Mood Media—it also provides scents and visible signage to customers—is going to be filing for bankruptcy.

Now, as is the case nowadays when companies file they don’t go away. There is “restructuring” and somehow they come out whole, and those that hold their debt don’t. So there will still be elevator music generated by the company.

But the fact that it is economically struggling—as all-too-many businesses, and consequently, people are—got me to thinking about another change that the pandemic is causing.

Given a choice, would you want someone to install Far-UV-C devices in the elevator—or any other enclosed structure you’re going into—or background music? While this may seem to be a trivial question (although it isn’t for those whose paycheck depends on your making the second choice), it points to a larger issue as we make adjustments in order to make it through the present period: what do we expect when we can go back to places like MoPOP or a bar on Sixth Street in Austin?

The elevator music may not matter. But what of the other?

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