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Ivan Raykoff:
Concerto con amore

Elizabeth Wells:
West Side Story

Robert Fink:
Orchestral Corporate

Sound Reviews


Central Avenue Sounds

Book Reviews

Vocal Authority

The Voice in Cinema

Refried Elvis


Billy Higgins

Tell us what you think...
  1. Now that’s 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.

  2. Production 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.

  3. Secondly, 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 article’s 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 of masculinity?



  4. The function 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 music—that there is a Music of Business, and not just a Business of Music—has 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 triad—the basic building block of classical tonal music—and 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.)




  5. It’s 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 World’s 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 marriage—or in this case, a birth. This excerpt does not come from a commercial—it 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 16, 1963.


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