NMSAT :: Networked Music & SoundArt Timeline

1940 __ Music While You Work
Comment : “Music While You Work” was a daytime music programme broadcast twice daily in the United Kingdom on the BBC General Forces Programme. It always began and ended with its famous signature tune, “Calling All Workers” by Eric Coates. The paper “Instrumental music? The social origins of broadcast music in British factories” by Marek Korczynsky and Keith Jones, explores the social origins and development of music relayed through loudspeakers in British factories during World War Two, focusing on the BBC programme Music While You Work, which provided a national soundtrack for factory work, and the contemporary institutions of Industrial Psychology, which promoted music as a highly ‘valuable’ accompaniment to work and formulated scientific principles governing its broadcast. The central argument advanced is that the music resulted centrally from top-down initiatives from a ‘human relations school’ coalition of institutions and individuals, in which the aims of increased productivity and the humanisation of the workplace intermingled, but in which the aim of increased productivity dominated. Concluding remarks assess the argument and relate it to the growing literature on contemporary practices of the sound-tracking of social life. This non-stop medley of popular tunes, “Music While You Work”, played by a different band each day, began in the dark days at the end of June 1940 (first broadcast on 23rd. June 1940) as a ploy to keep workers contented and therefore productive. The first broadcast was by Dudley Beaven at the BBC Theatre Organ and the afternoon broadcast was by a group which later veolved as Jimmy Leach and his Organolians who also did the very last broadcast 27 years later. Altogether there were 13702 editions and the programme was broadcast live to factory workers with a different band or orchestra each morning and afternoon on the Light Programme. Unfortunately, none of the programmes have been archived by the BBC but there are still some recordings on tape archived by amateur enthusiasts. A wartime BBC list of "unsuitable" music for the programme reads as follows: "Banned completely: numbers with predominant rhythm, insufficient melody or other unsuitable characteristics; numbers that are too lethargic and unsuited to any speeding up of tempo; all modern slow waltzes owing to their soporific tendencies". "Deep in the Heart of Texas" was also banned due to its clapping motif which caused the workers to beat hammers etc. on the workbench doing much damage. This BBC standing instruction to bandleaders was issued during wartime: "From the point of view of the general listener, we are asking for a bad piece of programme building. There must be as little variation of tempo as possible, the ideal being to maintain the same beat throughout the whole programme. Artistic value must NOT be considered. The aim is to produce something which is monotonous and repetitive. Subtlety of any kind is out of place!" From 1963 the programme was pre-recorded after which time it was generally considered that the vitality, that made it what it was, had left the programme. The last programme went out on the final day of the Light Programme in 1967. (Compîled from various sources)
Urls : http://www.whirligig-tv.co.uk/radio/mwyw.htm (last visited )

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