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Free College Music Appreciation Essay: The Sound of Muzak

Updated on March 14, 2014

What is 'Muzak' exactly?

You know the music you hear in a restaurant or store? Have you ever noticed how some of the musics seems to flow together seamlessly and fits the mood of the department store you're clothe-shopping in? That's Muzak, also known as "elevator music".

Music is an ordinary and essential part of our everyday lives, necessary for both our health and well-being. We hear it in cars, stores, the mall- it surrounds us, but we never give much conscious thought to it. It's supposed to relax us, heighten our mood and emotion, and/or free us from the mental thoughts that intrude our minds. Since music is such a huge part of our lives, it's often taken for granted; we've become accustomed to disregarding background noises, and sometimes music also can become just more noise- it's like we almost don't hear it.

Our desensitization to sound contributes to the under-appreciation of music in America, making us miss out on the true beauty of music. This is a custom that we’ve become familiar with doing, affecting the way we listen and our understanding of music. Music can indeed be powerful, and that power can be harnessed against us; there’s more to what goes on behind music in our everyday lives than is revealed, affecting us in ways we may not even recognize.

Music for me, really has become more background noise, like for many- even more so when you're shopping or eating or driving or whatever.

"Muzak, for many people, was the first manifestation of a phenomenon that is now so familiar we scarcely notice it: the shifting, and frequently inescapable, soundtrack of everyday life." - The Soundtracking of America

Each store you enter has a particular theme and vibe it gives off; it’s something people notice, but never give a second thought about. Americans especially don’t realize the many factors that play into creating the mood of the store- the set-up, lighting, (and arguably the biggest contributing factor) the music. Businesses put a lot of thought and money into attracting their customers. Consumers are only presented with the final product, not the work behind it- so what goes on behind-the-scenes remains unobserved and unnoticed.

It’s amazing to think that there’s a whole business that exists, dedicated to selecting the music we hear in stores, restaurants, etc- proving that music really does affect our minds on different levels whether we notice it or not.

Muzak shows us that music is indeed powerful, influencing individuals on both the conscious and subconscious levels. A new light is shed on music and American society. Most of American culture is pop culture, revolving around profit and business, created primarily for commercial needs and success.

Music has different purposes, depending on a society, and their culture and traditions; in America, music’s most important purpose is commercial success. Society shows us the stardom of music, never revealing the work that goes on behind it or what purpose they want it to serve.

I am enlightened to the cultural manipulation that’s taking place. The way we are lured into stores, with music- which was picked out, not randomly, but for a specific purpose: to buy what they’re selling.The music is selling the mood and tone of the store. In a way, this almost devalues music as its being used for commercial purposes. These stores sell us a particular look, sound and feel- the sociology of music.

I think everyone should be aware of the influence of music and the extent of a how a society that revolves majorly around money uses it to manipulate its people. Muzak’s concept “Stimulus Progression”, making employees work more effectively, shows exactly how music influences us on levels that we don’t even think about, as they select music that makes the workers work faster and better. “The process was said to be subliminal…because the absence of lyrics made the music less likely to intrude upon conscious thought”. Music is a powerful thing and when we understand its significance, it can bring about dramatic changes into our lives. Movies wouldn’t even be the same without the music in it because without music, the movie wouldn’t affect us the way it’s meant to- wouldn’t be as meaningful.

“Suddenly, I understood that the emotional content of a movie is driven largely by your ears. Your eyes can tell you what’s going on in a scene, but it’s hard to feel things through your eyes.”- SOT

Music is all about emotion.

Music won’t be fully appreciated until we have a greater understanding of exactly what music can do to us and for us.There is more to music than just profit and to have people listen to music that isn’t meant to be profitable would be refreshing- resulting in a greater awareness and appreciation for music; understanding that sound makes an impression upon us.

“During Muzak’s early decades, office workers and others sometimes complained that public background music was an invasion of privacy…’Our biggest competitor’, a member of Muzak’s marketing department told me, ‘is silence.’”- SOT

Even the sound of silence, not the lack of sound, but the sound of silence, holds as much power as music. Like music, silence can swallow you up, make you engaged in what you’re hearing and allow you to understand how you’re feeling; intensifying your emotion and allowing you to really feel. It gives you space to think. Some people search for silence and long for it & others want to escape it- like how the office workers wanted to escape the public background music.

Not just music, but sound really makes an impression upon us, making our lives meaningful. Take your average person- life forces them to, as I said before, become desensitized to sounds; life becomes so busy, hectic and annoying, that we ignore what is seemingly getting in our way of accomplishing what needs to be done. Due to that, we don’t see or listen as well as we could and because of that we’re not as intellectually developed as we could be. We’re ignorant. We ignore the impact of sound and music because we don’t understand what it does to us. I realize now that my ways of seeing are limited; this course is going to open my eyes and allow me to see past what I know and what I think I know about music, teaching me how to truly hear music- teaching me how to listen.


Submit a Comment

  • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

    Gypsy Rose Lee 

    6 years ago from Riga, Latvia

    Voted up and awesome. Music lifts me up and makes me come alive. Thanks for this great hub and passing it on.

  • mariexotoni profile imageAUTHOR


    6 years ago

    and good energy to you (near lake ontario; time 10:38 pm)

  • epigramman profile image


    6 years ago

    lol lol - boy oh boy that was quick - hold on let me review another hub of yours -

  • mariexotoni profile imageAUTHOR


    6 years ago

    thank you so much for your kind words! i will definitely have a look :)

  • epigramman profile image


    6 years ago

    ...will be promoting this beauty of a hub subject to my FB music group called Let's just talk music or cinema with a direct link back here - and you are invited to join if you are so inclined - and this was a well researched and enlightening world class essay on a musical genre that most people really don't think of - but yet it's there in most public places that we go to in everyday life.

    sending warm wishes to you and good energy too from lake erie time ontario canada 10:34pm


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