Although background music
was by the end of the 20th Century generally identified with Muzak
or elevator music
, there are several stages in the development of this concept:
In the Baroque
and Classical music era
music could be performed as a background to other activities, for instance:
- French kings of the baroque era could have music performed during their stately dinners.
- Opera or other public music performances could have such a high "social function" character that few people would actually listen to the music being performed.
was an invention of Erik Satie
around 1920. This type of "background music" fell into oblivion when the composer died a few years later, and was not again executed until it was rediscovered several decades later. Typical of Furniture music
are short musical passages, with an indefinite number of repeats.
Elevator music is a more general term indicating music that is played in rooms where many people come together (that is, with no intention whatsoever to listen to music). There is a specific sound
associated with elevator music, usually involving themes from "soft" popular music or "light" classical music being worked over by slow strings. The type of music for instance the Mantovani Orchestra
, and conductors like Franck Pourcel
and James Last
produced, peaking its popularity around the 1970s.
The term Ambient music
is generally used when more, but often less distinguishable, influences (like for instance elements of Jazz
and/or sounds from nature, etc...) are mingled in the "soundscape
". Note however that some producers and/or composers of "Ambient music" or "soundscapes" (or similar associated types of music, see Ambient
article) might not have (had) any intention to use the qualifier "background" for their music.
In opposition to background music, foreground music is intended to be listened to actively. Lifestyle Companies
in particular like to employ foreground music, individually compiled and scheduled to increase customer loyalty and time spent in their stores. However, sometimes the opposite effect is achieved; if the music proves to be too intrusive, people may be driven out of the store by it. Very often these companies have professional DJ's select the music matching their brand. In most cases currently popular chart music is used.
Anime, video game and blog music
Background music (often abbreviated "BGM") is also the term used to describe the music in video games
, incidental music in anime
, and music in blogs