Ever found yourself riding an elevator and wishing the stale, canned music that's piped into the enclosed metal box could be replaced with something a little more interesting? Something really good, even?
That wish is part of the motivation behind, yes, Really Good Elevator Music, an art project in Philadelphia. It's the brainchild of artist and radio producer Yowei Shaw, who looked into the history of Muzak and other background music and was somewhat disturbed to find that it was often created to manipulate the listener into spending more time in a shop or being more productive on the factory floor.
She wondered whether she could design elevator music to promote positive non-commercial things instead, like social interaction and community building. "Why don’t we make our own elevator music in the same utilitarian way but for pro-social reasons?," she explained to Philadelphia music site The Key. "We can play it on elevators and in other public/private spaces where people would normally hear background music, but designed with an explicitly positive goal like promoting community in mind. Not music for music’s sake but music as a tool to be effective.”
To that end, she approached six artists with a tie to the city's diverse Chinatown North/Callowhill neighbourhood to come up with tracks for a Really Good Elevator Music playlist.
The music that resulted — ranging from care-free acoustic tunes and electronic soundscapes to street sounds and little interviews with locals — can now be heard in the elevators of the neighbourhood's Wolf Building, a mixed residential and office building, and in other public spaces in the area. Already, Shaw told Atlantic Cities, she's noticed people striking up conversations about the new tunes. "That's one of the goals of the project: to get people to see the potential for it to be a space for connecting with other people, for learning about a particular neighbourhood, for experiencing art, for just experiencing a moment of genuine connection."
You can hear the Really Good Elevator Music playlist over on the project's website.