Elevator Music: A Surreal History of Muzak, Easy-Listening, and Other Moodsong

Overview

Elevator music, a style that has maligned, misunderstood, or simply ignored, is here, for the first time, vindicated, explored, and exposed as the ectoplasm that soothes, haunts, and holds our world. Acclaimed author Joseph Lanza covers every elevator music incarnation: the Aeolian strains of antiquity, Gregorian chant, Erik Satie's "furniture music," Muzak, easy-listening, New Age, and "elevator noir." Emerging as the elevator music conservatory is Muzak Corporation (started in the twenties by a former World War...
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Overview

Elevator music, a style that has maligned, misunderstood, or simply ignored, is here, for the first time, vindicated, explored, and exposed as the ectoplasm that soothes, haunts, and holds our world. Acclaimed author Joseph Lanza covers every elevator music incarnation: the Aeolian strains of antiquity, Gregorian chant, Erik Satie's "furniture music," Muzak, easy-listening, New Age, and "elevator noir." Emerging as the elevator music conservatory is Muzak Corporation (started in the twenties by a former World War brigadier general), which helped set tone for music's role in today's electronic superhighway. Not cultivated by a distinct aesthetic school, elevator music evolved partly by accident as it permeated many previously distinct musical genres and became postindustrial life's most authentic art form. Through in-depth discussion and interviews with such seemingly diverse composer/arrangers as Ray Conniff and Angelo Badalamenti, Elevator Music demonstrates how this moodsong (besides playing in elevators) elevates moods and induces a gravity-free vantage point, where life (like the movies) has soundtracks.
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Editorial Reviews

Gordon Flagg
It's tempting to say that elevator music has had its ups and down since it was developed by the Muzak Corporation in 1922 to calm the fears of passengers in the newly invented device. But, as Lanza shows, mood-enhancing music designed to stay in the background has remained consistently popular in its various forms, from orchestral music on early radio to today's New Age music. Among the variations Lanza describes are avant-garde conceptions like Satie's "furniture music," movie music, 1950s easy listening (including such offshoots as pseudo-Polynesian "exotica" records and Jackie Gleason's bachelor-pad albums), and Brian Eno's "ambient" works. You'd expect such an in-depth treatment of the topic to exhibit more than a whiff of condescension, but Lanza's overview comes off as evenhanded, perceptive, and informative. He also digs up many enlightening facts--for instance, that the term "canned music" was coined by John Philip Souza, and that the Muzak Corporation is based in Seattle, capital of the grunge-rock movement, and the founders of the grunge record label Sub Pop once worked for it. For maximum enjoyment, read the book to the accompaniment of, say, Mantovani or Percy Faith.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312105402
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 1/10/1994
  • Pages: 272

Table of Contents

1 Probing the Jell-O 1
2 Lullabies from Heaven and Hell: Mood Music's Antiquity 6
3 The "Canned" Avant-Garde 14
4 Umbilical Chords: The Birth of Muzak 22
5 The Push-Button Ballroom: Mood Music and Early Radio 31
6 Ghosts in the Elevator 38
7 Emotional Archives: Background Music in the Movies 55
8 The Moodiest Years on Record 67
9 World Music Originals: The 101 Strings and the Mystic Moods Orchestra 133
10 Walls Talk! 148
11 "Beautiful Music": The Rise of Easy-Listening FM 167
12 Violins from Space 183
13 Elevator Noir 194
14 Metarock 203
15 Who's Hearing Things? 215
16 Global Theming 221
Selected Discography 234
Bibliography 255
Index 267
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