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Elevator music

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Elevator music (also known as Muzak, piped music, or lift music) is a type of background music played in elevators, in rooms where many people come together for reasons other than listening to music, and during telephone calls when placed on hold. Before the emergence of the Internet, such music was often "piped" to businesses and homes[1] through telephone lines, private networks or targeted radio broadcasting (as in the BBC's Music While You Work, where powerful speakers were set up in factories to make the broadcast audible).[2][3]

There is no specific sound associated with elevator music, but it usually involves simple instrumental themes from "soft" popular music, or "light" classical music being performed by slow strings. This type of music was produced, for instance, by the Mantovani Orchestra, and conductors such as Franck Pourcel and James Last, peaking in popularity around the 1970s.[4]

More recent types of elevator music may be computer-generated, with the actual score being composed entirely algorithmically.[5][6]

Other uses[edit]

The term can also be used for kinds of easy listening,[7] piano solo, jazz or middle of the road music, or what are known as "beautiful music" radio stations.

This style of music is sometimes used to comedic effect in mass media such as film, where intense or dramatic scenes may be interrupted or interspersed with such anodyne music while characters use an elevator. Some video games have used music similarly: Metal Gear Solid 4 where a few elevator music-themed tracks are accessible on the in-game iPod, as well as System Shock, Rise of the Triad: Dark War, GoldenEye 007, Mass Effect, and Earthworm Jim.[original research?]


There are a number of societies, such as Pipedown,[8] that are dedicated to reducing the extent and intrusiveness of piped music. This campaign group proposes that some people can be deeply annoyed by piped music, and even find it spoils their enjoyment in recreation or drives them out of shops. They suggest that eight out of 10 people have left an establishment early because it was too noisy.[8] The Good Pub Guide 2017 called for a ban on piped music in pubs, already the case in houses managed by the Samuel Smith Old Brewery.


  1. ^ Kate Mossman. 'The science of background muzak' in The New Statesman, 31 March 2021
  2. ^ The Day the Muzak Died, BBC radio documentary by Falling Tree Productions, broadcast 30 March 2021
  3. ^ Reynolds, Brian (2006). Music While You Work: An Era in Broadcasting. Leicester: The Book Guild Publishing. p. 2. ISBN 1-84624-004-2.
  4. ^ Lanza, Joseph. Elevator Music: A Surreal History of Muzak, Easy-listening, and Other Moodsong, University of Michigan Press (2004)
  5. ^ Murphy, Michael (August 26, 2015). "People are confusing computer-generated music with the works of J.S. Bach". Quartz. New York. Archived from the original on July 10, 2022. Retrieved June 16, 2021.
  6. ^ Wilson, Chris (May 19, 2010). "I'll Be Bach: A computer program is writing great, original works of classical music. Will human composers soon be obsolete?". Slate. New York. Archived from the original on June 28, 2021. Retrieved June 16, 2021.
  7. ^ Mark Ammons (6 Aug 2010). American Popular Music, Grades 5 – 8. Mark Twain Media. p. 52. ISBN 978-1-58037-983-0.
  8. ^ a b See Pipedown Archived 2007-05-01 at the Wayback Machine