Easy listening

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Easy listening (sometimes known as mood music) [1] [4] is a popular music genre and radio format that was most popular during the 1950s to 1970s. [5] It is related to middle-of-the-road (MOR) music and encompasses instrumental recordings of standards, hit songs and popular non-rock vocals. It mostly concentrates on music that pre-dates the rock n' roll era, mostly concentrating on music from the 1940s and before. It was differentiated from the mostly instrumental beautiful music format by its variety of styles, including a percentage of vocals, arrangements and tempos to fit various day parts during the broadcast day.

Popular music is music with wide appeal that is typically distributed to large audiences through the music industry. These forms and styles can be enjoyed and performed by people with little or no musical training. It stands in contrast to both art music and traditional or "folk" music. Art music was historically disseminated through the performances of written music, although since the beginning of the recording industry, it is also disseminated through recordings. Traditional music forms such as early blues songs or hymns were passed along orally, or to smaller, local audiences.

Middle of the road is a commercial radio format and popular music genre. Music associated with this term is strongly melodic and uses techniques of vocal harmony and light orchestral arrangements. The format was eventually rebranded as soft adult contemporary.

An instrumental is a musical composition or recording without lyrics, or singing, although it might include some inarticulate vocals, such as shouted backup vocals in a Big Band setting. Through semantic widening, a broader sense of the word song may refer to instrumentals. The music is primarily or exclusively produced using musical instruments. An instrumental can exist in music notation, after it is written by a composer; in the mind of the composer ; as a piece that is performed live by a single instrumentalist or a musical ensemble, which could range in components from a duo or trio to a large Big Band, concert band or orchestra.

Contents

Easy listening music is often confused with elevator music ("Muzak"),[ not verified in body ] or lounge music, but while it was popular in some of the same venues it bore only modest resemblance to the background sound of this kind of music.

Background music refers to a mode of musical performance in which the music is not intended to be a primary focus of potential listeners, but its content, character, and volume level are deliberately chosen to affect behavioral and emotional responses in humans such a concentration, relaxation, distraction, and excitement. Listeners are uniquely subject to background music with no control over its volume and content. The range of responses created are of great variety, and even opposite, depending on numerous factors such as, setting, culture, audience, and even time of day.

Muzak is a brand of background music played in retail stores and other public establishments. In 1981, Westinghouse bought the company and ran it until selling it to the Fields Company of Chicago, publishers of the Chicago Sun-Times, on September 8, 1986. Formerly owned by Muzak Holdings, the brand was purchased in 2011 by Mood Media in a deal worth US$345 million.

A significant portion of easy listening music is purely instrumental and included some big band and orchestral arrangements of standards, themes from movies, bossa nova hits and small instrumental ensembles playing instrumental versions of popular songs, including light jazz and even some soft rock. However, it was distinguished by slower tempo, and the large prominence of strings. When reed instruments such as saxophones were employed, they were used in a gentle, as opposed to brash, tone.[ not verified in body ]

Big band music ensemble associated with jazz and Swing Era music

A big band is a type of musical ensemble that usually consists of ten or more musicians with four sections: saxophones, trumpets, trombones, and a rhythm section. Big bands originated during the early 1910s and dominated jazz in the early 1940s when swing was most popular. The term "big band" is also used to describe a genre of music. One problem with this usage is that it overlooks the variety of music played by these bands.

Orchestra large instrumental ensemble

An orchestra is a large instrumental ensemble typical of classical music, which combines instruments from different families, including bowed string instruments such as the violin, viola, cello, and double bass, brass instruments such as the horn, trumpet, trombone and tuba, woodwinds such as the flute, oboe, clarinet and bassoon, and percussion instruments such as the timpani, bass drum, triangle, snare drum, cymbals, and mallet percussion instruments each grouped in sections. Other instruments such as the piano and celesta may sometimes appear in a fifth keyboard section or may stand alone, as may the concert harp and, for performances of some modern compositions, electronic instruments.

A film score is original music written specifically to accompany a film for the actors. The score forms part of the film's soundtrack, which also usually includes pre-existing music, dialogue and sound effects, and comprises a number of orchestral, instrumental, or choral pieces called cues, which are timed to begin and end at specific points during the film in order to enhance the dramatic narrative and the emotional impact of the scene in question. Scores are written by one or more composers, under the guidance of, or in collaboration with, the film's director or producer and are then usually performed by an ensemble of musicians – most often comprising an orchestra or band, instrumental soloists, and choir or vocalists – known as playback singers and recorded by a sound engineer.

History

The style has been synonymous with the tag "with strings". String instruments had been used in sweet bands in the 1930s and in background contexts in films. In the 1940s and 1950s strings had been used in jazz and popular music contexts. As examples in the jazz genre, there are the post-World War II recordings of Charlie Parker and the 1955 recordings of Clifford Brown and Helen Merrill. Early examples of practitioner in the popular context were Dinah Washington in 1951, and Jackie Gleason in 1952. In the 1950s the use of strings quickly became a main feature of the developing easy listening genre.

Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African-American communities of New Orleans, United States. It originated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and developed from roots in blues and ragtime. Jazz is seen by many as "America's classical music". Since the 1920s Jazz Age, jazz has become recognized as a major form of musical expression. It then emerged in the form of independent traditional and popular musical styles, all linked by the common bonds of African-American and European-American musical parentage with a performance orientation. Jazz is characterized by swing and blue notes, call and response vocals, polyrhythms and improvisation. Jazz has roots in West African cultural and musical expression, and in African-American music traditions including blues and ragtime, as well as European military band music. Intellectuals around the world have hailed jazz as "one of America's original art forms".

Charlie Parker American jazz saxophonist and composer

Charles Parker Jr., also known as Yardbird and Bird, was an American jazz saxophonist and composer. Parker was a highly influential jazz soloist and a leading figure in the development of bebop, a form of jazz characterized by fast tempos, virtuosic technique and advanced harmonies. Parker was a blazingly fast virtuoso, and he introduced revolutionary harmonic ideas including rapid passing chords, new variants of altered chords, and chord substitutions. His tone ranged from clean and penetrating to sweet and somber. Parker acquired the nickname "Yardbird" early in his career on the road with Jay McShann. This, and the shortened form "Bird", continued to be used for the rest of his life, inspiring the titles of a number of Parker compositions, such as "Yardbird Suite", "Ornithology", "Bird Gets the Worm", and "Bird of Paradise". Parker was an icon for the hipster subculture and later the Beat Generation, personifying the jazz musician as an uncompromising artist and intellectual rather than just an entertainer.

Clifford Brown American jazz musician

Clifford Benjamin Brown was an American jazz trumpeter. He died at the age of 25 in a car accident, leaving behind four years' worth of recordings. He was also a composer of note: his compositions "Sandu," "Joy Spring," and "Daahoud" have become jazz standards.

The name "easy listening" was used by Claude Hall, radio-TV editor of Billboard magazine to describe the sound of radio station WPIX-FM in New York. The format was developed by Charlie Whitaker, Program Director of the New York Daily News' station, broadcasting from the "Pix Penthouse" in the Daily News Building. Whitaker had designed the format as program director of KODA in Houston, where it achieved top ratings in that market. WPIX-FM also quickly became the top-rated FM radio station in New York and ranked among the top five of all stations, AM and FM, with adults 25–49 from 1964 through 1968. The format was emulated by many syndicated programmers (including Whitaker himself) and became the most popular format in FM radio nationwide. It later became known as Adult Contemporary, and this signaled an end to the instrumental content of the format. An attempt by Whitaker and his partner Lynn Christian, formerly GM of WPIX-FM, to revive the original format in the late 1990s was unsuccessful because of problems with delivery. It remains one of the most popular radio formats of all time.[ citation needed ]

Claude Hall was an American journalist and a writer for and longtime radio-TV editor of Billboard. He is perhaps best known for having coined the term "easy listening" in 1965 in describing the sound of WPIX-FM, a radio station then heard in metropolitan New York City.

<i>Billboard</i> (magazine) American music magazine

Billboard is an American entertainment media brand owned by the Billboard-Hollywood Reporter Media Group, a division of Eldridge Industries. It publishes pieces involving news, video, opinion, reviews, events, and style, and is also known for its music charts, including the Hot 100 and Billboard 200, tracking the most popular songs and albums in different genres. It also hosts events, owns a publishing firm, and operates several TV shows.

WFAN-FM, also known as "Sports Radio 66 and 101.9 FM" or "The Fan", is a commercial FM sports radio station licensed to New York City. The station is owned and operated by Entercom, and is simulcast with WFAN. WFAN-FM's studios are located in the combined Entercom facility in the Hudson Square neighborhood of Manhattan and its transmitter is located at the Empire State Building.

A precursor to easy listening consisted of soft and unobtrusive instrumental selections, in large department stores, on a very structured schedule with limited commercial interruptions. It often functioned as a free background music service, with commercial breaks consisting only of announcements aimed at shoppers already in the stores. This practice was known as storecasting and was very common on the FM dial in the 1940s and 1950s.[ citation needed ]

Department store Retail establishment; building which offers a wide range of consumer goods

A department store is a retail establishment offering a wide range of consumer goods in different product categories known as "departments". In modern major cities, the department store made a dramatic appearance in the middle of the 19th century, and permanently reshaped shopping habits, and the definition of service and luxury. Similar developments were under way in London, in Paris and in New York.

Advertising Form of communication for marketing, typically paid for

Advertising is a marketing communication that employs an openly sponsored, non-personal message to promote or sell a product, service or idea. Sponsors of advertising are typically businesses wishing to promote their products or services. Advertising is differentiated from public relations in that an advertiser pays for and has control over the message. It differs from personal selling in that the message is non-personal, i.e., not directed to a particular individual. Advertising is communicated through various mass media, including traditional media such as newspapers, magazines, television, radio, outdoor advertising or direct mail; and new media such as search results, blogs, social media, websites or text messages. The actual presentation of the message in a medium is referred to as an advertisement, or "ad" or advert for short.

FM broadcasting The transmission of audio through frequency modulation

FM broadcasting is a method of radio broadcasting using frequency modulation (FM) technology. Invented in 1933 by American engineer Edwin Armstrong, wide-band FM is used worldwide to provide high-fidelity sound over broadcast radio. FM broadcasting is capable of better sound quality than AM broadcasting under normal listening conditions, so it is used for most music broadcasts. Theoretically wideband AM can offer equally good sound quality, provided the reception conditions are ideal. FM radio stations use the VHF frequencies. The term "FM band" describes the frequency band in a given country which is dedicated to FM broadcasting.

Jackie Gleason, a practitioner of this genre, expressed the goal of producing "musical wallpaper that should never be intrusive, but conducive". [6]

Similarly, in 1956 John Serry Sr. sought to utilize the accordion within the context of a jazz sextet in order to create a soothing mood which is ideally suited for "low pressure" listening on his album Squeeze Play. [7] [8]

Reception

The magazines Billboard and Record World featured easy listening singles in independently-audited record charts. Generally 40 positions in length, they charted airplay on stations such as WNEW, New York City, WWEZ, Cincinnati, and KMPC, Los Angeles. Record World began their listings January 29, 1967 and ended these charts in the early 1970s. Billboard's Easy Listening chart morphed into the Adult Contemporary chart in 1979, and continues to this day. [9]

During the format's heyday in the 1960s, it was not at all uncommon for easy listening instrumental singles to reach the top of the charts on the Billboard Hot 100 (and stay there for several weeks) [10] .

Beautiful music was a precursor to easy listening music, had rigid standards for instrumentation, e.g., few or no saxophones (at the time, the saxophone was associated with less refined styles such as jazz and rock and roll), and restrictions on how many vocal pieces could be played in an hour. The easy listening radio format has been generally, but not completely, superseded by the soft adult contemporary format. [11]

According to the Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World, "The public prominence and profitability of easy listening [in the postwar years] led to its close association with the so-called 'Establishment' that would eventually be demonized by the rock counterculture." [12] In Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies (1981), rock critic Robert Christgau said "semiclassical music is a systematic dilution of highbrow preferences". [13]

Easy listening singers

Easy listening/lounge singers have a lengthy history stretching back to the decades of the early twentieth century. Easy listening music featured popular vocalists such as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Tony Bennett, Dionne Warwick, Bill Kenny, Astrud Gilberto, Matt Monro, The Carpenters and many others. The somewhat derisive term lounge lizard was coined then, and less well known lounge singers have often been ridiculed as dinosaurs of past eras [14] and parodied for their smarmy delivery of standards. [15] In any event, these lounge singers, perhaps performing in a hotel or cocktail bar, are usually accompanied by one or two other musicians, and they favor cover songs composed by others, especially pop standards, many deriving from the days of Tin Pan Alley.[ citation needed ]

Many well known performers got their start as lounge singers and musicians. Although he claims not to have worked for very long, Billy Joel worked as a lounge musician and penned the song "Piano Man" about his experience. Not all lounge singers, however, sing lounge music.[ citation needed ]

Lounge, a more modern term that lumped together exotica, light jazz, easy listening and nostalgia, emerged in the late 1980s as a label of endearment by younger fans whose parents had played such music while they were growing up in the 1960s. It has enjoyed resurgences in popularity in the 1980s and 1990s, led initially by ironic figures such as Buster Poindexter and Jaymz Bee.[ citation needed ]

In the early 1990s the lounge revival was in full swing and included such groups as Combustible Edison, Love Jones, The Cocktails, Pink Martini and Nightcaps. Alternative band Stereolab demonstrated the influence of lounge with releases like Space Age Bachelor Pad Music and the Ultra-Lounge series of lounge music albums. The lounge style was a direct contradiction to the grunge music that dominated the period. [16] [17]

In the 2000s Richard Cheese and Lounge Against the Machine has added to this resurgence by covering (usually profane) hit songs of other genres (primarily metal and hip hop) in the style of a lounge singer. Other artists have taken lounge music to new heights by recombining rock with pop, such as Jon Brion, The Bird and the Bee, Pink Martini, the Buddha-Lounge series, and the surrounding regulars of Café Largo.[ citation needed ]

Instrumental-vocal mix

Most stations adopted a 70–80% instrumental – 20–30% vocal mix, a few offered 90% instrumentals, and a handful were entirely instrumental. The WPIX-FM format called for a 60% 40% instrumental to vocal mix, and included vocal groups such as Brazil 66, The Lettermen, The Sandpipers, The Fifth Dimension, and other groups in addition to vocalists such as Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Johnny Mathis, Perry Como, Doris Day, Peggy Lee, Barbra Streisand, Tony Bennett and others. By the 1970s, softer songs by artists like The Carpenters, Anne Murray, John Denver, Barry Manilow, Elton John, Nancy Wilson and others were added to the mix on many stations. Also, some of these stations even played soft songs by artists like Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Billy Joel, and other rock-based artists.[ citation needed ]

All vocals on such stations had to be extremely soft. Therefore, on one hand a song like "She's Out of My Life" by a non-core artist like Michael Jackson would be heard on some of these stations; similarly, "Crazy for You" or "Live to Tell" by Madonna. On the other hand, even uptempo jazzier songs by standards artists, such as "Detour" by Patti Page, would not be heard on easy listening music stations except during specialty shows.[ citation needed ]

The custom recordings were usually instrumental versions of current or recent rock and roll or pop hit songs, a move intended to give the stations more mass appeal without selling out, but also disgusted some longtime listeners of the format. Some stations would also occasionally play earlier big band-era recordings from the 1940s and early 1950s.[ citation needed ]

Many music stations would air a few Christmas songs during the season. The stations' vocal content would typically increase to about 40 to 60 percent of the playlist during this period, as well. This concept was later borrowed (and expanded upon) by Soft AC, Oldies, and even some country music and Hot AC stations.[ citation needed ]

The predominantly instrumental-vocal mix is still in use today,[ when? ] mainly by smooth jazz stations.[ citation needed ]

See also

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Quiet storm is a radio format and genre of contemporary R&B, performed in a smooth, romantic, jazz-influenced style. It was named after the title song on Smokey Robinson's 1975 album A Quiet Storm.

Lounge music is a type of easy listening music popular in the 1950s and 1960s. It may be meant to evoke in the listeners the feeling of being in a place, usually with a tranquil theme, such as a jungle, an island paradise or outer space. The range of lounge music encompasses beautiful music–influenced instrumentals, modern electronica, while remaining thematically focused on its retro-space-age cultural elements. The earliest type of lounge music appeared during the 1920s and 1930s, and was known as light music. In the 21st century, the term lounge music may also be used to describe the types of music played in hotels, casinos, supermarkets, several restaurants, and piano bars.

Soft rock is a derivative form of pop rock that originated in the late 1960s in the U.S. region of Southern California and the United Kingdom. The style smoothed over the edges of singer-songwriter and pop rock, relying on simple, melodic songs with big, lush productions. Soft rock was prevalent on the radio throughout the 1970s and eventually metamorphosed into the synthesized music of adult contemporary in the 1980s.

Smooth jazz is music that evolved from a blend of jazz fusion and easy listening pop music, featuring a polished pop feel with little to no jazz improvisation. The genre arose in the mid-1970s in the United States, although it was not named "smooth jazz" until the 1980s. Traditional jazz players and jazz purists did not embrace the popular style: Jazz Journal's "Sound Investment" column stated in November 1999 that it "would cover an extremely wide spectrum of jazz styles" while avoiding smooth jazz.

Beautiful music is a mostly instrumental music format that was prominent in American radio from the late 1950s through the 1980s. Easy listening, light music, mood music, elevator music, and Muzak are other terms that overlap with this format and the style of music that it featured. Beautiful music can also be regarded as a subset of the middle of the road radio format.

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"Cast Your Fate to the Wind" is an American jazz instrumental selection whose music was composed, and which was originally recorded, by Vince Guaraldi; later, lyrics for it were written by Carel Werber. It won a Grammy Award for Best Original Jazz Composition in 1963. It was included on the album Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus, which the Vince Guaraldi Trio released on the Fantasy Records label on April 18, 1962. On at least some copies of the album, the title on the label contained a printing error; it read "Cast Your Faith To The Wind," an unintentionally comic twist to the sentiment of the song. Fantasy also released Guaraldi's recording of the song as a single in the U.S., where it reached #22 on the Billboard Hot 100 pop chart and #9 on the Easy Listening chart.

Adult album alternative is a radio format. A spinoff from the album-oriented rock format, its roots trace to the 1960s and 1970s from the earlier freeform and progressive formats.

Adult contemporary music Radio format and music genre

In North American music, adult contemporary music (AC) is a form of radio-played popular music, ranging from 1960s vocal and 1970s soft rock music to predominantly ballad-heavy music of the present day, with varying degrees of easy listening, pop, soul, rhythm and blues, quiet storm, and rock influence. Adult contemporary is rather a continuation of the easy listening and soft rock style that became popular in the 1960s and 1970s with some adjustments that reflect the evolution of pop/rock music.

Smooth jazz was a popular radio format that included songs by artists such as George Benson, Pat Metheny, Kenny G, Luther Vandross, Sade, Robin Thicke, Anita Baker, Basia, Dave Koz and Chuck Mangione. It began in the 1980s as "adult alternative", a well-defined radio format, with jazz, new-age music and adult contemporary music. In the 1990s, the format became much more jazz-oriented, with very little new-age, and emphasizing young artists.

References

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Bibliography