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

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9780472089420: Elevator Music: A Surreal History of Muzak, Easy-Listening, and Other Moodsong; Revised and Expanded Edition
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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.

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About the Author:

Joseph Lanza is currently writing an impressionistic history of romantic pop ballads. He has served as an independent consultant for Time Life Music and was executive producer for the two-disc collection Music for TV Dinners (Caroline Records). His most recent book is about the legendary crooner Russ Columbo.

From Kirkus Reviews:

Philosophy and history of American background music by pop- culture historian Lanza (Fragile Geometry, 1991--not reviewed). Lanza focuses on a variety of different types of what he calls ``moodsong,'' from commercial Muzak through the sugary strings of Mantovani and the purling choruses of Ray Coniff on to '80s ``new age'' sounds. He is unabashed in his admiration for all of these styles, asserting that they are ``in many respects, aesthetically superior to all other musical forms.'' He traces the history of so- called ``functional music'' to the work of avant-garde artists of the early 20th century such as Erik Satie, who sought to wed art with the innovations of the machine age, and early heroes include Muzak's inventor/originator, General George Owen Squier, who studied the effect of music on productivity and mood. Lanza is most interesting in analyzing the psychology of Muzak programming, showing how the company developed a schedule based on the time of day, so that, for example, ``the breakfast hours offered cheery sunrise melodies and caffeinated rhythms.'' The book's midsection is a listener's guide to the golden age of easy listening, with descriptions of cocktail-conductor Jackie Gleason, the bubbly champagne music of Lawrence Welk, and the swooning voices of the Anita Kerr singers. In closing, Lanza addresses philosophical issues in Muzak; the possible evil effects of background music; the phenomena of '70s ``lite'' music and ``metarock''; and the adaptation of rock songs to the Muzak aesthetic. Still, however mightily he may argue that ``elevator music...is essentially a distillation of the happiness that modern technology has promised,'' Lanza fails to convince that the ``easy listening'' creators were really more than schlockmeisters with a commercial bent. (Eight pages of b&w photos--not seen) -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9780312105402: Elevator Music: A Surreal History of Muzak, Easy-Listening, and Other Moodsong

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ISBN 10: 0312105401 ISBN 13: 9780312105402
Publisher: St Martins Pr, 1994
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9780312130633: Elevator Music: A Surreal History of Muzak, Easy-Listening, and Other Moodsong

Picado..., 1995
Softcover

9780704302266: Elevator Music

Quarte..., 1994
Softcover

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