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Phila. Project Elevates Idea of ‘Elevator Music’

An open elevator door. (Credit: Timothy McLaughlin)

An open elevator door. (Credit: Timothy McLaughlin)

Ian Bush Ian Bush
Ian Bush is an anchor, reporter, news editor, and technology editor&nb...
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By Ian Bush

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Maybe you’ve gotten good over the years at ‘tuning out’ elevator music, but there’s science behind the soundtrack.  A slow tempo might make you linger longer in a shopping mall; progressively faster songs have been shown to raise productivity.  So a group of musicians wanted to know whether that could have a similar effect: promoting a sense of community in Philadelphia.

When you step into one of the lifts at The Wolf Building at 12th and Callowhill, what do you hear?

“It’s a really home-grown, grassroots kind of elevator music,” says Yowei Shaw, the audio producer behind the Asian Arts Initiative project called “Really Good Elevator Music.”

Shaw sought out musicians with a local connection to create 13 tracks.

“A lot of the sounds and voices were recorded in this neighborhood of Chinatown North/Callowhill,” she explains.

Like the song “Sunday Breakfast,” which features voices from the rescue mission by the same name.

“Usually, I think, you just turn off when you’re in an elevator,” says Shaw.  “But maybe it could be time and space to meet new people, or just maybe experience a genuine moment of human connection.”

For another one of her tunes, Shaw rolled tape as an 8th grade class at Facts Charter School rehearsed their graduation song, a Miley Cyrus medley.

“We put synthesizers, electric guitars, drums underneath, and tried to make these 8th graders be center stage as the pop stars themselves,” she says.  “We’re trying to promote community through humor, through surprise — hopefully getting people to talk in the elevator to other people in there — What is this? What is this about? — and hopefully that starts a conversation.”

Shaw is collecting feedback on the playlist from elevator riders at the Wolf through the end of the month.

“That just sort of jerking people out of their everyday routine to listen a bit closer — that’s one of the main goals.”

You can hear the new ‘muzak’ at reallygoodelevatormusic.com.  And there’s a listening party from 6-8pm on Friday, March 14th at the Asian Arts Initiative, 1219 Vine St.

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