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MUSIC OF THE WORKPLACE: A STUDY OF MUZAK CULTURE (SOCIAL CHANGE IDEOLOGY, TECHNOLOGY)

JERRI ANN HUSCH, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Abstract

The dissertation focuses on the music of the MUZAK Corporation in order to examine the social impact of sound technology on patterns of social interaction and personal meaning creation. As an ethnography the dissertation focuses on both the history and technical development of MUZAK, as well as on the personal perceptions of MUZAK within American society. In addition, the ability of MUZAK to affect consciousness and the role it plays as a subtle yet powerful means of social control within the workplace are analyzed.^ Modern technology is more than merely innovation in tools and mechanics; it is an all encompassing way of organizing the world. Obviously traditional social structures and processes of social interaction have been altered by this overriding technological transformation and the logic of technical rationality. Modern music, as culturally patterned sound, exemplifies this transformation and is a symbolic expression of this technical rationality. It is assumed within this study that music in general is symbolic of patterns of social interaction and that music is a mediation between internal, psychic and personal worlds and external reality. Given this, the particular meaning of MUZAK, and perhaps any technically reproduced music, is "embedded in" or derived from, modern patterns of social interaction, patterns informed by scientific and technological assumptions of aural reality.^ The research focuses on the particular music of the MUZAK Corporation to better illustrate four critical social implications of technological innovation for the creation of meaning in contemporary music. Briefly, the critical points discussed are: (1) modern sound technology implies a passive audience in relationship to the production of music sounds; (2) modern sound technology alters conceptions of time and space as related to social action; (3) modern sound technology "concretized" a historically transcendent, fluid and momentary symbol; and (4) modern sound technology alters the social act of creating musical tones by emphasizing the external acquisition of the machinery of musical production versus the internal imaginative processes of musical production.^ These alterations in technology and their subsequent social ramifications are further discussed in relation to fantasy and the social psychological processes of reality creation.^ In summary, the study seeks to illuminate aspects of social reality that are accepted as "normal" and to show the historical and cultural foundations of their "normalcy." ^

Subject Area

Sociology

Recommended Citation

HUSCH, JERRI ANN, "MUSIC OF THE WORKPLACE: A STUDY OF MUZAK CULTURE (SOCIAL CHANGE IDEOLOGY, TECHNOLOGY)" (1984). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI8418890.
http://scholarworks.umass.edu/dissertations/AAI8418890

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