Leading article: Soul Muzak

Friday 13 February 2009 01:00

It seems unlikely that, decades from now, people will remember what they were doing on the day the Muzak died. But yesterday's news that the American company that manufactures the piped music has filed for bankruptcy protection has some cultural significance all the same.

Public defenders of Muzak are rare. Call centres must accept much of the blame. Can there be a customer alive who was soothed, rather then driven to a frothing rage, by an interminable Vivaldi loop?

But imagine for a moment how thrilling and modern the sound of music in a department store or a hotel lobby must have seemed in the 1950s. Like new refrigerators and televisions, Muzak helped define the dawning of the age of the consumer: something for our political authorities to consider as they desperately attempt to get us back into the shops and avert a prolonged recession.

If Muzak be the food of shopping, play on?

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