Thursday, February 7, 2013

Goodbye, Muzak

I missed this one: the venerable name Muzak will give way to Mood. Thanks, Adair, for passing on the news.

In my college years, I absorbed thousands of hours of Muzak while working as a stock clerk in a Two Guys discount department store. Yes, I had the Muzak in me. What I remember of it: trombones. Every song seemed to have a trombone front and center. The programming intensified the loneliness of our shabby housewares department. Slow stuff: it fit. Peppy stuff: ah, ironic.

Listening to Muzak, late on, say, a Friday night, straightening up a badly-lit, customer-free aisle of ironing boards and clothespins and clothespin bags: no wonder I fancied myself an existentialist.

A related post
Going on break (at Two Guys)

[I hadn’t thought of that song in years.]

comments: 4

Adair said...

And the thing is, it wasn't always bad music. The orchestrations on many of the pieces were subtle and exquisite, a kind of American Impressionist music that will someday be rediscovered.

Michael Leddy said...

No, it wasn’t. I remember attending to “Blue Skies” and occasional Ellington tunes. Now I wish I could hear that sort of thing again.

Adair said...

A staple of MUZAK in the 1960s was the ensemble known as One Hundred and One Strings. They were actually a major German symphony orchestra, moonlighting in the still lean years after WWII. An American arranger would either compose original work or orchestrate tunes by Ellington, Gershwin, and others, and fly to Germany for the recording, which was much cheaper to do there than in the US. The results could be stunning---full symphonic renderings of jazz classics and the American Song Book, or original "semi-classical" works that echoed Copland, Victor Herbert, or Ferde Grofe with great subtlety. The music could also be ethereal and of exquisite delicacy. Of course, there were real stinkers too, like the One Hundred and One Strings doing Hawaiian melodies or
The Beatles. (They even tried electronic music!) But on the whole, I think that this music has been dismissed too casually.

Michael Leddy said...

Adair, you must know this book: Elevator Music: A Surreal History of Muzak, Easy-Listening, and Other Moodsong. I’m putting it on my to-get list.