If a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? If elevator music stops playing and nobody notices, does it matter if it was ever playing at all? Your answer to the latter may depend on your propensity for anxiety: It’s often said that music was first piped into elevators to calm the nerves of early passengers frightened about plummeting to their deaths. Others say it was simply a way to entertain them. Certainly, this explains the enduring existence of background music in the public sphere. French composer Erik Satie is often credited with having invented the concept: Between 1917 and 1923, he wrote five pieces of what he called “furniture music, ” designed to “be a part of the surrounding noises”—heard, but not listened to. What is now referred to as “muzak, ” after the company that spent so much of This story is from Kinfolk Issue Thirty-One Buy Now Related Stories Arts & Culture Music Issue 19 On a Grander Scale Malaysian singer-songwriter Yuna now may live on the opposite side of the globe, but she’s determined to evolve while staying true to her roots. Arts & Culture Music Issue 20 Bring It on Home: Leon Bridges From bussing tables to playing at the White House in under two years, Leon Bridges has no plans to part ways with his humble beginnings. Arts & Culture Music Issue 21 Variations on Solitude: Glenn Gould Three decades since his death, Canadian pianist Glenn Gould’s inner life endures with as much legend as his recordings. Arts & Culture Music Issue 22 Esperanza Spalding Esperanza Spalding continues to challenge expectations and classifications—particularly her own. Arts & Culture Issue 22 This Woman’s Work In his latest book, The Kate Inside, photographer Guido Harari presents the audacious spirit and restless creativity of iconic singer Kate Bush. Arts & Culture Music Rosie Lowe London-based singer Rosie Lowe talks to us about creative recharging, the power of songwriting and the vulnerability inherent in live performance.