Lullatone exits Muzak
On September 20, 1853, Elisha Graves Otis sold the first of what he called his “hoist machines” – what we know today as elevators. His invention made the modern skyscraper possible, and also helped usher in what is often called ”Elevator Music” or Muzak.
The first recordings under the name of Muzak were released in 1934, and the company Muzak, Inc. has undergone a number of corporate and philosophical changes over the ensuing decades. In its current incarnation, Muzak supplies a range of music by original artists, and it is a far cry from our father’s elevator music. But there is considerable nostalgia for that by-gone era, as the popularity of what is called “Space Age Bachelor Pad” or “lounge” music attests, and one can’t help but wonder what the characters in the popular television series Mad Men hear in their office.
Background music has evolved – famed producer/composer Brian Eno, who has worked with Roxy Music and Talking Heads, and released a celebrated series of his own art-rock solo albums in the 1970’s, began a series of “Ambient” recordings with the minimalistic Music For Airports. In the 21st century, background music at work is mostly supplied by your own earbuds, but from supermarkets to cafes, the tradition of background music lives on – and perhaps, if you stumble into the right elevator, you might still hear the Muzak.
Or better, you’ll enter the musical realm of Lullatone, a Japan-based “art, music and good ideas group” that enjoys making things from music to iPhone apps. The band created the Dropophone iPhone app to encourage fans to make their own minimalist Lullatone-like tunes. Musically they are exploring a new kind of elevator music – the type that evokes hand claps and makes you want to talk to the stranger beside you. Their latest album with the straightforward title, Elevator Music is best explained in the band’s own words:
We’d like to feel like going up and down vertically in a box held up by wires is a magical adventure. But, we’d also like elevator music that sometimes makes you want to get out of the elevator and take a walk outside. Lately most of the elevators in our city don’t play music, so we imagine songs like these when we ride them.
Not sure I’d fancy elevator music that “makes you want to get out of the elevator”, or that “evokes hand claps”, but any initiative that aims to silence the terrible Muzak must be awarded imo.
The video below is from a song on the album, Walking on the Sidewalk and has the band having fun with their instruments and everyday objects. See for yourself: