thats more like it. It is the music that makes
the difference, a musical backdrop that effortlessly creates
a sense of testosterone-fueled urgency combined with business-like
purpose. The track is called "Market Report"; it is
one of the "powerful, impressive, dynamic themes"
that appear on a CD whose title is Orchestral Corporate.
Orchestral Corporate is a prototypical example of what is
called in the business "production music": music composed
expressly for use in corporate presentations, sales meetings,
videos, and trade shows.
music seems to me to present a rich field for musical and cultural
interpretation, and my goal in what, contrary to that high-pressure
opening, is a very provisional overview of the topic, is to
convince you of this by sketching out how production music can
shed light on two thorny musicological issues. First, hermeneutics.
I want to consider production music as a signifying system.
Outlandishly specific titles like "Market Report"
(or "Power Structure" or "Arbitrage") are
common, as are elaborate narrative/expressive descriptions of
the musical content of individual tracks; libraries of production
music are sold fully indexed, with the promise of what will
seem to most music scholars impossible levels of semiotic control.
sexual politics. I will ask how the specific genre of production
music just demonstrated, the driving, heavily-scored motivational
style generically known as "industrial," constructs
masculine identity within the most aggressively "macho"
precincts of American business. As the articles opening
animation dramatizes, "orchestral"-sounding music is
integral to the presentation of a paradigmatically masterful
masculine self within the corporate world. How does this process
work? Can we link it to specific cultural and historical constructions
THE MUSIC OF BUSINESS?
of orchestral music within corporate culture has largely escaped
investigation, for reasons encapsulated by this cartoon.
It has been easy and comforting to assume that, though the denizens
of the corporate world may have money and power, they live in
an artistic wasteland. Academics are quite ready to believe
that corporations produce and commodify music, and that they
use commodified music (or rather, Mu-zak) to control
consumer and worker behavior. But the idea that the experience
of being in a corporation is itself mediated by musicthat
there is a Music of Business, and not just a Business of Musichas
never, to my knowledge, been seriously discussed. In fact, no
self-respecting computer operating system today boots up with
the kind of uninspiring "beep" parodied in that graphic.
The Power Macintosh greets you with a deep rich major triadthe
basic building block of classical tonal musicand Windows
has always serenaded its end users with small, but fully worked-out
musical compositions upon system start up. (In order to evoke
aurally the clean and simple joys of computer work, Microsoft's
Windows 95 employed subtle sounds created by avant-garde pop
musician Brian Eno, instantly making him the most extensively
performed composer in the world.)
CORPORATION AS PATRON
worth pointing out that there is a tradition of large corporations
commissioning music, and not just for image ads or the quasi-civic
pomp of a Worlds Fair. Thomas Watson, founder of IBM, was
famous for his company songbook; but not many people know he actually
ordered up an "IBM symphony" in 1936. Michael Eisner
recently did the same, commissioning a "Millennium Symphony"
to be played at all Disney theme parks during the year 2000. Sometimes,
a corporation, like a Renaissance principality, will arrange for
a topical stage work as part of the festivities commemorating
an important marriageor in this case, a birth. This excerpt
does not come from a commercialit was a number from the
fully-staged musical that the Xerox Corporation hired Broadway composer Wilson Stone
to write for an internal company event: the rollout to
the national sales force of its new copier, the 813, on September