Music Lovers Have New Reason to Sing

Classical music aficionados now have something to sing about. Or, at the very least, to sing along with.

Callers put on hold while waiting for a Harvard University Information operator will now hear the strains of Mozart, Mahler and a host of other classical music composers wafting through their telephone lines.

As of last Friday, Harvard began piping classical Muzak through its digital phone system to all callers in the Harvard Information phone cue.

"It is something we've wanted to do for a while," said Nancy Kinchla, a manager of network a services at Harvard's Office for Information Technology (OIT).

No one in Harvard's department of music was consulted on the decision or the programming selections, according to administrators at OIT and in the music department. But Kinchla said she might ask music professors for suggestions in the future.


Harvard Information, 495-1000 and 493-1000, receives tens of thousands of calls per year.

Kinchla said that the decision was made because many callers placed on hold thought they had been disconnected because of the relative quiet of Harvard's digital phone lines as compared with conventional ones. ,

"A digital line is dead silent--three's nosense you're still connected. It sounds as thoughyou're disconnected, and many people think theyhave been," she said.

Kinchla said the initial response to the changehas been positive, though one person had calledher to say the thought the music was too loud.

A glitch in the new system which remainedunidentified as of press time resulted in theMuzak not being played yesterday. "A number ofpeople called in [yesterday] to say don't take itaway," she said.

Harvard's Technology Product Center (TPC) isthe only other University office which has musicfor callers put on hold, Kinchla said.

TPC operators can choose the songs its callershear by selecting the compact disks it puts on itssystem. Harvard Information, for now at least,will be at the mercy of Muzak.

Kinchla said adding music to the phone systemwas "inexpensive," and that including initialsubscription fees cost "well under $1,000."

"There's a basis menu of music types which wecan choose from but it's pretty much genericmusic," Kinchla said, adding that rap,country/western and rock music were among thechoices in addition to classical.

"We chose straight classical music atfirst--something that's appropriate for Harvard'smain number.