On the next edition of The Other Side: Sequestered episode 15 “Muzak & Elevator Music”.
I prefer the term furniture music which was coined by composer Erik Satie back in 1917, but sadly that term essentially disappeared soon after. In modern times it is referred to as background music, easy listening and mood music, or perhaps in a negative sense Muzak. However, I like to think of it as Elevator Music.
This will will be a fun and very easy listening evening, featuring a wide array of classic other sidean muzak style lounge music. To get you primed, here is a short overview of the genre to help you understand it all a bit more.
Muzak is actually the name of the company that inventor Major General George Owen Squier created in the early 1930s. The name was inspired by the made-up word Kodak being used as a trademark. Mr. Sqier liked the sound of it and took the first syllable from “music” and added the “ak” from “Kodak” creating the name Muzak, which was officially trademarked in 1954.
Muzak was originally used to create a better production environment for workers. Programmed in 15-minute blocks, it would gradually get faster in tempo and louder and brassier in instrumentation to encourage workers to speed up their pace. Following the completion of a 15-minute segment, the music would then fall silent for 15 minutes. This was partly done for technical reasons, but company-funded research also showed that alternating music with silence limited listener fatigue. The popularity of Muzak remained high through the mid-1960s. President Dwight D. Eisenhower was the first president to pump Muzak into the West Wing, and Lyndon B. Johnson owned the Muzak franchise in Austin, Texas. NASA reportedly used Muzak in many of its space missions to soothe astronauts and occupy periods of inactivity. The company changed hands many times over many decades, encompassing almost every style of music from rock and pop to Spanish-language programming (for Mexican restaurants), jazz, blues, classical and yes even “easy listening.”
Through the 1980s and 1990s, Muzak moved away from the “elevator music” approach, and instead began to offer multiple specialized channels of popular music. Muzak pioneered “audio architecture”, a process of designing custom music playlists for specific customers. Even with the many changes in format, noted Trump supporter and rocker Ted Nugent, used Muzak as an icon of everything “uncool” about music. In 1986, he publicly made a $10 million bid to purchase the company with the stated intent of shutting it down. “Muzak is an evil force in today’s society, causing people to lapse into uncontrollable fits of blandness,” Nugent said. “It’s been responsible for ruining some of the best minds of our generation.” As uou might guess his bid was refused.
By the late 1990s, the Muzak corporation had largely rebranded itself. As of 2010, Muzak is said to have been distributing 3 million commercially available original artist songs. It offered almost 100 channels of music via satellite and electronic delivery, in addition to completely custom music programs tailored to their customers’ needs. On February 10, 2009, Muzak Holdings LLC filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. In March 2011, Mood Media agreed to purchase Muzak Holdings for $345 million. Although Muzak first appeared in 1934, it had its largest impact in the 1960s and 1970s.
So there you have it. I do hope you’ll tune in for a diverse 120 minutes of oldies and newbies, all with a strong bent towards the Muzak/easy listening vein on Tuesday, June 30 from 8-10PM, only on KVMR FM Nevada City.