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Easy-Listening 'Muzak' Reborn As 'Mood Media'

Feb 5, 2013
Originally published on February 5, 2013 6:36 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From a death in the music world, now to something of a rebirth.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIEGEL: Muzak, best known for its inoffensive, unobtrusive, ultra-bland music is changing its brand name. The company announced today that it will now be known as Mood, after Muzak's owner, Mood Media. It's chairman and CEO said in a statement that this marked the end of an iconic American brand, or as fast company put it, the musical equivalent of white bread.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

JOSEPH LANZA: Muzak was all over the place.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

That's Joseph Lanza, author of the book "Elevator Music: A Surreal History Of Muzak, Easy Listening and Other Moodsong." Muzak first appeared as a brand in 1934, but Lanza said the company had its biggest impact in the 1960s and '70s.

LANZA: It was in the White House at one point. LBJ even owned a franchise.

CORNISH: Yes, Muzak kept you moderately entertained in both Oval and non-Oval offices, shopping malls and waiting rooms.

LANZA: It also was used in the distant early warning places up in the north where they would watch for Soviet mischief on radar and they needed to be alert. So the music really - it didn't put people to sleep so much as it just relaxed them, yet kept them alert.

SIEGEL: Muzak even reportedly played during the Apollo 11 space mission to keep the astronauts calm.

LANZA: And I guess also, you know, the being cramped in a space capsule on your way to the moon, it would be a little tense.

SIEGEL: Of course, back here on Earth, Muzak is most well known for playing in elevators, which for some people is like being cramped in a space capsule on your way to the moon.

CORNISH: Now, over the years, Muzak could never quite shake its reputation for cheesy elevator music, but today, we remember the name Muzak and the music that perhaps we didn't realize was there in the first place. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.