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Lounge Caravan: A Selective Discography

From: Notes
Volume 61, Number 4, June 2005
pp. 1060-1083 | 10.1353/not.2005.0059

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Notes 61.4 (2005) 1060-1083

A Selective Discography

Melissa Ursula Dawn Goldsmith

For information about the scope of this column, consult the headnote in the September 2004 issue (p. 206 of this volume). All Web sites accessed 23 February 2005.

Precursors and Not-So-distant Cousins

The genre designation "lounge" describes a complex network of music ranging from light instrumentals (easy listening) to experimental uses of instruments and cutting-edge technology (not-so-easy listening). The word "network" is used here instead of genre because lounge emerged from many different kinds of sources and embraces many different kinds of music, contemporary cultural influences, and technological innovations. Its roots may be found in the very beginnings of background or incidental music, in music that exhibits unusual uses of traditional western musical instruments as well as newly-invented electronic instruments, in avant-garde and futuristic music, in arrangements emerging from the era of light music on the radio (the 1920s and 1930s), and in instrumental versions or "covers" (i.e., recordings by other artists) of popular and classical songs. Lounge's musical influences and inspirations are a hodgepodge: Dixieland jazz; Latin dance; the croon; experimental music, and the gimmick song. Most lounge music is composed and performed to create a particular mood or to transport the listener to another place—often a jungle, an island paradise, or outer space.

There are numerous excellent monographs and discographies that focus on this large network of music. Joseph Lanza's Elevator Music: A Surreal History of Muzak, Easy-Listening, and Other Moodsong, now available in a second revised and expanded edition (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2004) provides a detailed history and discography focusing on easy-listening recordings. Other sources for discographies and reviews include back issues of Cool and Strange Music! Magazine, The Space Age Pop Music Page (available on the Internet at http://spaceagepop.com), and Weirdomusic.com (http://weirdomusic.com/index.html). The focus of this discographical essay is on lounge music that tends to impel listeners to pay attention to their stereos or radios, music that offers both listener and stereo a workout, as opposed to the notion of "easy listening." The discussion in the essay section will consider sound quality, variety (particularly of compilations), and accessibility of reissued recordings for the purpose of starting a library collection; these are also the inclusion criteria for the discography itself. Turning now to the milieu of lounge music, please adjust your VU meters, sit back, and read further.


A typewriter dings after being cued by an orchestra; a waltz meows; a clock tick-tocks to a tune in common meter. From the late 1930s into the 1950s compositions by Leroy Anderson (1908–1975) were popular favorites among radio audiences as well as concertgoers (the Harvard-educated composer was an arranger for the Boston "Pops" Orchestra under Arthur Fiedler and later became a composer of Broadway musicals). Such descriptive or "novelty" songs predate the "gimmick" songs that gained popularity in the early 1960s. They demand the attention of listeners—causing them to sit and listen. With a sense of humor, Anderson transformed everyday sounds into music. The Leroy Anderson Collection (MCA Classics MCAD2–9815A and MCAD2–9815B [1988]) is a two-compact disc set that includes Anderson's best known works: "Blue Tango," "The Typewriter," "The Waltzing Cat," "The Syncopated Clock," "Sleigh Ride," and his theme song "Forgotten Dreams." The largest compilation of Anderson's songs available, this CD set includes selections (some monaural) from Anderson's Broadway musical Goldilocks (1958) as well as less well-known songs such as "Sandpaper Ballet," "Jazz Pizzicato," and "Clarinet Candy." A more accessible compilation of Anderson's popular songs is on the CD "The Typewriter": Leroy Anderson Favorites (RCA Victor 09026–68048–2 [1995]). The recording features performances by the St. Louis Orchestra under Leonard Slatkin.

Raymond Scott (1909–1994), Anderson's contemporary, was a bandleader, composer, pianist, recording and electronic music engineer, and producer. His early successes included the songs "Powerhouse" and "Toy Trumpet." His themes were put to use in Carl Stalling's incidental music for Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons. In contrast to Anderson's novelty numbers, which were generally...

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