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Elevator Music Paperback – January 1, 1995

3.7 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this entertaining book, Lanza ( Fragile Geometry: The Films, Philosophy, and Misadventures of Nicolas Roeg ) treats background music as a serious art form, tracing its evolution and arguing that there is more to the world of engineered sound than Muzak (whose inventor he calls the "unsung hero of the electronic age") and other types of canned music. Lanza places movie soundtracks, mood music, space-age music and "lite" radio all in the realm of indirect listening, along with numerous popular performers from Lawrence Welk and Ray Conniff to the Swingle Singers and the Norman Luboff Choir. Many contemporary composers work in this sphere, maintains the author, who also includes 18th-century composers such as Vivaldi, Telemann and Boccherini, because he considers their music "feathery." Lanza covers his subject in such an engaging manner that one could almost be lulled into accepting his analysis that "Muzak and mood music are, in many respects, aesthetically superior to all other musical forms" because "they emit music the way the twentieth century is equipped to receive it." Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

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, to sooth passengers fearful of the new machines. Background music is now a pervasive element of modern technological culture. Lanza thinks background music is often good music. As an underappreciated necessity, it makes our world more pleasant and agreeable. While no deeper than "101 Strings" or "Mystic Moods Orchestra" fare, Lanza's book may make readers feel better about the amalgamation of tastes demanded by the fact that 90 million people listen to Muzak daily. For large popular collections.
- Bonnie Jo Dopp, formerly with Dist . of Columbia P.L.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Quartet Books (January 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0704302268
  • ISBN-13: 978-0704302266
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.3 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,107,187 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on November 29, 1998
Format: Paperback
Standing apart from the slagheap of so-called histories of "Lounge" music is Joseph Lanza's brilliant "Elevator Music."  Lanza has contributed an exhaustively-researched and riveting account of a genre of music too often dismissed by those deafened by the relentless rhythms of today's popular music.  Without resorting to the insipid and meaningless exploitation of kitsch nostalgia, the book makes a convincing argument that this music does indeed serve to "elevate" the spirits of its listeners.  Rather than being an inescapable aural assault, elevator music has the possibility of being considered as pleasurable foreground, if the listener so chooses, or benign background, as a subconscious presence.  One need only walk into Howard Johnson's from the bustle of Times Square to experience the oasis that elevator music creates within that space. Our society would no doubt be much better off if elevator music were more prevalent in its public spaces than the angst-ridden, self-conscious pop and rap that now dominate our daily soundscape.
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Lanza's exploration of elevator music, easy listening and all things moodsong is the definitive book for anyone who has an interest in a very misunderstood genre. As someone very close to the Easy Listening and Mood Music programming that quietly ruled FM radio for much of the 70's, let me tell you... Joseph Lanza nails his subject matter impressively. Whether you consider yourself a Percy Faith, Roger Williams or Mantovani fan... or are just curious about these plush, melodic sounds, "Elevator Music: A Surreal History Of Muzak, Easy Listening and Other Moodsong" makes for enjoyable reading. This isn't a book that seeks to cash in on what someone recently decided to call lounge music but an evenhanded evaluation of fascinating, mostly instrumental adult pop music with melodies that always lingered on.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I recently read this while on vacation. I am old enough to remember easy listening stations playing this type of music and my mom had a fair amount of it in her record collection. But I have never really thought about its development or popularity. Joseph Lanza's book was a great bird's eye view of the whole story of how the music developed and the rise of Muzak, the company that put it in every office and business in the country for the purpose of improving productivity. The book doesn't get too bogged down in details but it does survey all of the top names in the genre including personal faves, Percy Fatih, Ray Conniff and Mantovanni. Lanza adds some thoughts and philosophy along the way and his writing is quite breezy. All in all, it filled in some holes in my knowledge of this music that I loved as a child but now find missing in my adult life. I would recommend it to anyone interested in the subject of easy listening or exotica music.
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Format: Paperback
The author did a marvelous job researching the subject ofpoporchestra easy listening music. He covers in some detail all thegreats who made this style of music so popular during the 1950s, '60s and '70s. The welcome chapter on Beautiful Music stereo FM radio stations of the '70s should have included the name of Bob Chandler, who programmed WGAY Washington, D.C. Bob was the person most responsible for making 'GAY the best station of its kind in the U.S. and the #1-rated station in our Nation's Capital during much of the 1970s. Please note that Time-Life Music has issued a series of Instrumental Favorites featuring all the artists discussed by the author. ( ) Author Joesph Lanza has written the annotations to this series of exquisite recordings.
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Format: Paperback
A thorough and fascinating history of "elevator music" and "easy listening" music in general. Clearly points out that "ambient" music is just a new name slapped on an old idea. Very interesting facts regarding how music can affect the performance of workers, etc. Like all books of this sort, the inclusion of a sampler CD containing the some of the works discussed would be helpful. Sure, it would increase the price of the book. But it would make it a better book. When will the publishers catch on?
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Format: Paperback
Joseph Lanza is "a writer who concentrates on 'speculative' nonfiction on topics including film, music, and other popular culture phenomena." He has also written Phallic Frenzy: Ken Russell and His Films (Cappella Books), Vanilla Pop: Sweet Sounds from Frankie Avalon to ABBA, Gravity : Tilted Perspectives on Rocket Ships, Roller Coasters, Earthquakes, and Angel Food, The Cocktail: The Influence of Spirits on the American Psyche, etc.

He wrote in the first chapter of this 1994 book, "Part of our social therapy is to bathe and swim in that 'amniotic fluid,' not just to the sounds of Muzak but to all the moodsong soundtracks that embellish our lives but that many ungratefully ignore, deride, or take for granted. This book will have succeeded in its purpose if I can help efface (or at least make all the more confusing) the distinction between one person's elevator music and another's prized recording."

Here are some quotations from the book:

"For a more clinical definition: mood music shifts music from figure to ground, to encourage peripheral hearing. Psychoanalysts might say that it displaces our attention from music's manifest content to its more surreal latent content." (Pg. 3)
"Nonetheless, moments of Muzak synchronicity do occur ...
Read more ›
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