MUSIC continues to be the psychic battleground on which the fiercest campaigns of intergenerational culture war are waged. Forget the Beatles, forget the Stones, forget 2 Live Crew: this time, the aggression is going the other way -- and classical and country-and-western are the chosen weapons. The Associated Press reports a widening circle of 7-Elevens and other convenience stores in the Pacific Northwest have begun to deal with the problem of disorderly young customers "hanging out" by filling the parking lots with music these customers can't stand: for instance, recordings of Mantovani and of Perry Como. The mastermind of the policy, a "loss prevention manager" for the Southland Corp. that owns the 7-Eleven chain, explains that he got the idea when he noticed his teenaged son fleeing the house whenever he played the '60s songs that are now referred to as "classic rock."

If this is the direct-mail philosophy played out in a weird new dimension, it nonetheless seems to work quite nicely. In Tillicum, near Seattle, a convenience store called Hoagy's Corner is blaring a country-and-western radio station in its parking lot to keep young GIs from two nearby military bases from sitting around too long in the parking lot with their own car radios on loud. (The country-and-western isn't so audible from inside the store, so the GIs still make their purchases, and the neighboring stores have nothing but praise for the selections.) Some 7-Elevens across the border in western Canada have cut down on loitering by playing Petula Clark or even Mozart.

A bemused representative of Muzak Inc., the corporation with perhaps the best handle on how to tailor one's piped-in music to attract a specific audience, calls this the perfect reverse of normal music-customer relations: "Usually you choose your music with an eye to the sort of customers you want to attract; why not for the sort of customers you want to repel?" Muzak is based in Seattle, but its representatives hasten to note that their own product, which they refer to as "environmental music," is not being utilized in this undertaking. We don't know if they should consider it a compliment, however. Going to piped-out Muzak in this particular war of nerves would probably be considered an unfair escalation, the moral equivalent of going nuclear.