Elevator Music: A Surreal History of Muzak, Easy-Listening, and Other Moodsong; Revised and Expanded Edition

Elevator Music: A Surreal History of Muzak, Easy-Listening, and Other Moodsong; Revised and Expanded Edition

by Joseph Lanza
     
 

It's campy, it's cool, empty, intrusive, trite, and treacly. It's Big Brother singing. Call it what you will -- elevator music, Moodsong ® easy listening, or Muzak ®. For a musical genre that was supposed to offend no one, it has a lot of enemies.

Musical cognoscenti decry its insipid content; regular folk -- if they notice -- bemoan its pervasiveness;

Overview


It's campy, it's cool, empty, intrusive, trite, and treacly. It's Big Brother singing. Call it what you will -- elevator music, Moodsong ® easy listening, or Muzak ®. For a musical genre that was supposed to offend no one, it has a lot of enemies.

Musical cognoscenti decry its insipid content; regular folk -- if they notice -- bemoan its pervasiveness; while hipsters and campsters celebrate its retro chic. Mindful of the many voices, Joseph Lanza's Elevator Music sings seriously, with tongue in cheek, the praises of this venerable American institution.

Lanza addresses the criticisms of elites who say that Muzak and its ilk are dehumanized, vapid, or cheesy. These reactions, he argues, are based more on cultural prejudices than honest musical appraisal.

Says Lanza, today's so-called mood music is the inheritor of a long tradition of mood-altering music stretching back to the ancients; Nero's fiddle and the sirens of Odysseus being two famous examples. Contemporary atmospheric music, Lanza argues, not only serves the same purpose, it is also the inevitable background for our media-dominated age.

One of Lanza's premises, to quote Mark Twain, is that this music is "better than it sounds." "This book will have succeeded in its purpose," he writes, "if I can help efface...the distinction between one person's elevator music and another's prized recording."

Joseph Lanza is an author, producer, and music historian. His most recent book is Russ Columbo and the Crooner Mystique.

Editorial Reviews

Entertainment Weekly
"Lanza takes background music seriously as both music and social utility. In doing so, he's written one of the few pop-history books that won't put you to sleep - not to mention the only one that dares to probe the very real connections between shopping-mall music and Devo."
Entertainment Weekly

Wendy Carlos
"Snobby musicologists ignore this fascinating topic, but I learned a lot while being well-entertained by Lanza's delightful book."
—Wendy Carlos, composer, soundtracks for "A Clockwork Orange" and "The Shining"

Phil Patton
"A fascinating tour of a genuine piece of American surrealism, diligently researched, sparklingly presented, surprising at every turn. Hilarious and at times terrifying."
—Phil Patton, author of Made in the U.S.A.: The Secret Histories of the Things That Made America

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780472089420
Publisher:
University of Michigan Press
Publication date:
01/26/2004
Edition description:
Revised and Expanded
Pages:
344
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 1.10(d)

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