Lounge Music: A Blissful Detachment

lounge music

Music has been a part of human life for centuries and has paved its way to our culture and traditions. It has manifested as one of the strongest and most creative way of expression and. communication. Music helped individuals with the receiving and sending of emotions. People found an audible sanctum and a louder way to scream their hearts out with music.

Styles of composition have evolved and had emerging varieties through the years.  It was to suit the ever changing wants of the audience. Music varied with every purpose of the listener: emotional coherence, synchronization of thoughts with the composer, genre preference, and industrial needs.

One of the modern emerging genres is Lounge Music.  It is characterized by easy music that conveys the feeling of relaxation, peace, calming atmosphere as floating on space, a tropical sunset, and soft sounds of a jungle.  Lounge music has progressed through the years adopting one genre to another in order to mimic a hovering feeling. It basically employs well-crafted instrumentals, infused with modern electronic, down tempo, as it focuses a retro-space-age themed elements.

Genres Infused by Lounge Music

Bossa Nova originated in Brazil which literally mean “new trend”. It is a fusion of samba and jazz.  It sprouted and popularized around 1950’s and 1960’s and started its popularity with young musicians and college students.  It has remained a vital part of standard Jazz.

Chill-out Music is one of the several types of electronic music.  It flows in mid tempo and has a mellow rhythm. Chill-out connotes relax, from the word “chill”. This music emerged in the mid 1990’s to give the dancers to mellow down after fast tempo music was played on the dance floor.

Jazz is known for its complexity.  It is a syncopated music created by the black community in New Orleans in the late 19th century.  Jazz requires a collaborative group creativity and interaction to produce a complex rhythm and rendition of a composition.  It usually depends on the mood and interactions with the musicians. They can alter harmonies, melodies and tempo liberally.

Exotica is a musical style is described by Martin Denny composer of “Exotica” album in 1957, as what a lot of people have imagined the islands of the South Pacific and the Orient combined. It is a musical impression of imitating the feeling when in the tropics.

Polynesia Music is played with relaxing sounds in union of guitar, chanting, conga, bongos, and drums. It uses exotic percussion arrangement and vocalists imitating wild animals.

Swing Music uses tough drums and double bass for rhythm with brass instruments like trombones and trumpets. String instruments such as guitar and violin together with woodwinds including saxophones and clarinets also add to the lead section. This genre swings from medium to fast tempos to create emphasis on the off-beat pulse in the music.

Space Age Pop has a varied approach. The composers have experimented on style rhythm, composition and arrangement. Most of space age pop music has the warmth and shades of string orchestra with the integration of Latin percussion and varied keyboard instruments.  Some composers even add the alien like sounds to convey outer space.

Big band is a genre associated with jazz and swing music.  It originated in the United States consisting percussion, woodwind and brass instruments. A big band usually has trumpets, trombones and saxophones.  Its rhythm section is composed of drums, piano, guitar and acoustic bass or electric bass.

Cha-cha-cha is a genre from Cuba. It is a monadic choral vocal style with rhythmic elements from mambo-style danzon. Its structure concept is introduction-verse-bridge-coda and is played in double time.

House Music is a genre of electronic music. Early forms of house music was dance music with repetitive 4/4 beats, off-beat hi-hat cymbals, synthesized bass lines and rhythms provided by a drum machine.

Dubstep is another genre of electronic music that features syncopated percussion and drum patterns with bass lines that has outstanding sub bass frequencies.

Lounge Music Chronology

The earliest form of lounge music sprouted between 1920’s and 1930’s.  It was then called light music. As the need arise, it has manifested to music played in hotels, hotel lounges, bars, piano bars and casino bars. The music was to create a sense of relaxation in the ambiance.

Space age pop, exotica and easy listening music were popular around 1950s and 1960s. They are considered as lounge music but during those times, the term lounge has yet to come. Never the less, the concept of lounge music was already applied.

Lounge music basically originated with jazz combined with traditional musical instruments around the world.  Exotica sold millions of records in its time through artists Martin Denny, Les Baxter, and Arthur Lyman. Lounge music made a concoction of Latin genres, French music, Polynesian, and other popular music from outside the United States.

Early recordings seemed like originating in exotic foreign lands but in contrary it was recorded by skilled session musicians in Hollywood. When space exploration was in great interest of the public, space age music mimicked sounds of outer space.  In the arrival of stereophonic technology, artist such Esquivel employed spatial audio techniques to create whooshing sounds.

New artists took lounge music to a different level by combining pop and rock. Some of the artists to use this style were Jon Brion, Triangle Sun, Pink Mertini, The Bird and the Bee, the Buddha-Lounge series, and the surrounding regulars of Café Largo. A documentary about three older punk rockers that created lounge-punk band is the movie “The Rise and Fall of Black Velvet Flag (2003)”.

Now a day’s lounge music has further evolved. With the advent of sophisticated keyboards through wider range of sound mimicking, advanced electric drum pads and drum machines, complex guitar effects and the leap with digital mastering, lounge music became more complex. Stereophonic sound has escalated to surround sound, a multi-channel and speaker system that portrays the effect of the listener being surrounded by three or more sound sources.

Today’s lounge music has deeper bass.  It resonates widely with stereo, reverberated and lighter sounds.  Lounge music is like jazz and house music. It flows with repeated beat and rhythm and is usually instrumental. There will be emphasis of the next measure with the filling of instruments.

The beat may vary to engage tempo shift usually with a rise and fall. Modern lounge music may have a sprinkle of voice fill-in’s usually with a light voice of a female and sometimes a male. The voices are charged with long reverbs and delays to create a floating feeling. The lyrics are usually short, like phrases or words and are repeated in key parts of the song. Nature sounds like the rain, chirps, and ocean waves are still fused.

Synthesized sounds of the keyboard usually give the coldness of the music.  The weight is given by deep drum bass. The warm for modern lounge music is given by a guitar with light overdrive and delays. General delay of all components is also noticeable.

With the innovation of new artist, lounge music has incorporated the texture of house music and dubstep music. Deeper sound, beach like setting in the music, echoes and a   repetition of a back scattered beat. Yet it has still stood by its nature as relaxing, serene, and a spatial hover that gives the listener a blissful detachment with just a plug and a press of play.

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The Rat Pack in Las Vegas: The Mecca of Lounge Music

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The golden years of Las Vegas lounge performances were during the 1950s and 1960s. Just imagine: Juan Garcia Esquivel being the opening act of Frank Sinatra! Or a marquee sign of one of the plush hotels in the desert flashing performance for the night like this, “DEAN MARTIN – MAYBE FRANK – MAYBE SAMMY.” The Rat Pack in Las Vegas did not only become an attraction for the high rollers and big names which frequented the gambling city, the Rat Pack contributed significantly to making Last Vegas the Mecca of Lounge Music!

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Esquivel: Playfully Pop And Perfect

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In a late 1960s television interview with the pioneer lounge music artist, host Bob Wilkins started it by simply stating, “There is only one Esquivel.” Juan Garcia Esquivel, or simply Esquivel, considered as one of the most recognized proponent of a stylish genre of instrumental musicality in the 1950s and 1960s and which later came to be known as lounge music, has a distinct and innovative way of playing his piano and performing with his orchestra, which made him earned such titles as being the “King of Space Age Pop” or the “Busby Berkeley of Cocktail Music.”

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Billy Joel State of Mind: In the Lounge of His Music

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“Sing us a song, you’re the piano man…” So goes the chorus of Billy Joel’s Piano Man, which romanticizes his own experience as a lounge music artist for a brief period of 6 months in 1972 at the Executive Room bar in Los Angeles. But, what is it about the music which endears it to most of its listeners?

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