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

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University of Michigan Press, Jan 26, 2004 - Music - 329 pages
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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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User Review  - quietbliss - LibraryThing

A book that delves into the history of muzak. It's one of those areas of culture that is unavoidably pervasive and intrusive, yet most people say they just tune it out. The questions I always have are ... Read full review

Elevator music: a surreal history of Muzak, easy-listening, and other moodsong

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Lanza's book takes "Dentist chair music'' lightly, claiming for it a history extending back to Orpheus, who "used'' music for his own purposes. Music was first used in elevators in 1922, Lanza claims ... Read full review

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About the author (2004)

Joseph Lanza is the author of numerous books, including "Elevator Music: A Surreal History of Muzak, Easy-Listening and Other Moodsong"; "Fragile Geometry: The Films, Philosophy, and Misadventures of Nicolas Roeg";" Russ Columbo and the Crooner Mystique"; and "Vanilla Pop: Sweet Sounds from Frankie Avalon to ABBA.

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