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Muzak: A History

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Item Type: Sound Recording Duration: 21 min
Event Type: Lecture / Panel Discussion Program Origin: KPFA

A lecture by Jane Jarvis, recorded in December of 1977 at a Conference of the Institute for Studies in American Music (now the H. Wiley Hitchcock Institute for Studies in American Music), an affiliate of Brooklyn College of the City University of New York. Jarvis, a jazz pianist, composer, baseball stadium organist, and a vice-president of the Muzak corporation, talks about the history of Muzak. Founded in the 1920s by Major General George O. Squier and the North American Company, a utility conglomerate, the Muzak corporation used technology patented by Squier to transmit music over power lines at a time when radios were still relatively rare and of low quality. Interest in Muzak increased from the 1930s to the 1950s due to a number of studies which indicated that having relaxing and unobtrusive music playing in the background made workers more productive and shoppers more likely to stay in stores longer. Jarvis describes in some detail what goes into Muzak programing, and how attention is paid to the stimulus effect of varying types of environmental music throughout the typical eight hour work day. Jarvis, an enthusiastic speaker, also touches upon how Muzak has evolved from a simple purveyor of orchestrations or arrangements of popular music, to a large organization that engineers their product to fit the needs of an ever expanding and varying client base.

Genre:  Popular Music
Subject:  Muzak (Firm); Environmental music; Background music
People:  Jarvis, Jane
 
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