“Red velvet sheets, gossamer drapes, scented rooms, and martinis pouring from a bottomless shaker: just the foreplay to this soundscape of misty evenings, postcard perfect sunsets, and aquatic paramours…” —(liner notes quoted in Elevator Music)
Elevator Music drags to the foreground the latent spiritual, unconscious and definitely sexual strivings of 20th-century society imbedded in what is commonly dismissed as “background” music. To cite author Lanza, “moodsong reinforces mounting suspicions that we live inside a dream.” It is no kitsch coincidence, for instance, that Salvador Dali was commissioned to do the cover for Jackie Gleason’s Lonesome Echo album. Elevator Music is also a tribute to the fiendish inventiveness of mood music’s pioneers and their imaginative mind-control experiments such as the “Stimulus Progression” mechanics of programming and Muzak’s musical mood-rating scale from “gloomy-minus 3” to “ecstatic-plus 8.” Mood music becomes the focal point of remarkable parallels between the “invisibility” of post-Cold War global capitalism and fictional, futuristic, totalitarian dystopias such as Brave New World. An all-encompassing survey which reveals Erik Satie’s furniture music manifesto of 1920 as the transitional point from Dada to Muzak, but also includes such juicy tidbits as Jackie Gleason’s plain-talking instruction to his orchestra, “It’s 5 a.m. and you see her body outlined through her dress by the streetlight, and you get that ‘Mmmmm, I want to come’ feeling.”
Elevator Music is loaded with astounding facts and correlations such as the Mormon Church’s corporate sponsorship of the “Beautiful Music” radio format, Angelo Badalamenti’s (Twin Peaks’ composer) secret tenure as staff arranger “Andy Badale” for the Muzak Corp., Seattle’s Sub Pop/Muzak connection, the themes from Dragnet and Captain Kangaroo beginning as music-library stock tunes, Neil Armstrong’s request for Les Baxter’s Music Out of the Moon to be played out the Apollo rocket’s speakers during the moon mission, why Muzak stays with mono, the influence of Pythagorean number theory on Muzak programming, and that Bach’s Goldberg Variations was commissioned by an insomniac Russian count residing in Dresden to be played in an adjoining room while he counted sheep.
Elevator Music also provides in-depth analysis of such thrift store perennials as the Mystic Moods Orchestra, Ray Conniff Singers, Percy Faith, the Swingle Singers, Enoch Light and the Light Brigade, and the like. Lanza supports his bizarre penchant for the 101 Strings with such examples as Exotic Sounds of Love, featuring a leather-clad dominatrix with an eye patch (!) on its album cover and their legendary freak-out album Astro Sounds, featuring tunes like “A Disappointing Love with a Desensitized Robot” and “Bad Trip Back to ‘69.” Less impressive is his treatment of the unsung but truly gifted maestros of “easy listening” like Martin Denny, Les Baxter, Perrey and Kingsley, and Francis Lai in this otherwise thoroughly entertaining chronicle of capitalist social engineering and the interplay of music, technology, mass culture and finance.
Paperback: 280 pages