ELEVATOR MUSIC

A SURREAL HISTORY OF MUZAK, EASY-LISTENING, AND OTHER MOODSONG

Philosophy and history of American background music by pop- culture historian Lanza (Fragile Geometry, 1991—not reviewed). Lanza focuses on a variety of different types of what he calls ``moodsong,'' from commercial Muzak through the sugary strings of Mantovani and the purling choruses of Ray Coniff on to '80s ``new age'' sounds. He is unabashed in his admiration for all of these styles, asserting that they are ``in many respects, aesthetically superior to all other musical forms.'' He traces the history of so- called ``functional music'' to the work of avant-garde artists of the early 20th century such as Erik Satie, who sought to wed art with the innovations of the machine age, and early heroes include Muzak's inventor/originator, General George Owen Squier, who studied the effect of music on productivity and mood. Lanza is most interesting in analyzing the psychology of Muzak programming, showing how the company developed a schedule based on the time of day, so that, for example, ``the breakfast hours offered cheery sunrise melodies and caffeinated rhythms.'' The book's midsection is a listener's guide to the golden age of easy listening, with descriptions of cocktail-conductor Jackie Gleason, the bubbly champagne music of Lawrence Welk, and the swooning voices of the Anita Kerr singers. In closing, Lanza addresses philosophical issues in Muzak; the possible evil effects of background music; the phenomena of '70s ``lite'' music and ``metarock''; and the adaptation of rock songs to the Muzak aesthetic. Still, however mightily he may argue that ``elevator music...is essentially a distillation of the happiness that modern technology has promised,'' Lanza fails to convince that the ``easy listening'' creators were really more than schlockmeisters with a commercial bent. (Eight pages of b&w photos—not seen)

Pub Date: Feb. 21, 1994

ISBN: 0-312-10540-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1993

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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DEAR MR. HENSHAW

Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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