‘Elevator Music’ author Joseph Lanza discusses the future of Muzak on WNYC’s “The Takeaway”

by Brianne Johnson on February 11, 2013

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Following the announcement last week that the company that owns Muzak® will be retiring the name, WNYC’s “The Takeaway” host John Hockenberry spoke with Joseph Lanza, author of Elevator Music: A Surreal History of Muzak, Easy-Listening, and Other Moodsong, about the often misunderstood musical genre.

In the interview, Lanza discusses the future of the Muzak® Corporation, which he describes as “the G.E. [General Electric Company] of background music.”

“[Muzak®] will be a company, but they probably will not be using the word ‘muzak’ anymore, and they’re not really gonna be piping very much of any elevator music any more….It’s like a company that produces all kinds of products, but [like G.E.], it’s just not associated with light bulbs anymore,” Lanza said.

For a sound intended to be comforting, unobtrusive, and inoffensive, “elevator music” — i.e., easy listening, mood music, “Beautiful Music,” and “Music by Muzak®” — has ignited strong and often heated opinions.

In his book, Elevator Music, Lanza confronts the criticisms of elites who say that elevator music is “dehumanizing” or less than music. These reactions, Lanza argues, are based more on cultural prejudices than honest musical appraisal. In a current climate where the noises are louder, and the background beats are ever more aggressive, this history of music intended as a pleasing background makes for a captivating read.

Lanza’s conversation with Hockenberry can be found here, and more information about Elevator Music can be found here.



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