Modern Offices No Longer Mechanical Orchestras

Robert Siegel and Audie Cornish have more on the music of the office environment.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Now a piece of music made by an orchestra of machines.

(SOUNDBITE OF "SYMPHONIE LES ECHANGES")

BLOCK: That's the "Symphonie Les Echanges" by Swiss composer Rolf Liebermann.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

It caught our eye and ear yesterday when The Atlantic posted the sound on its website. "Les Echanges" is a three-minute piece played almost entirely by office machines.

(SOUNDBITE OF "SYMPHONIE LES ECHANGES")

BLOCK: It featured 156 instruments, including typewriters.

SIEGEL: Calculator and accounting machines.

BLOCK: Telephones.

SIEGEL: Office perforators.

BLOCK: Metronomes.

SIEGEL: Entrance door gongs.

BLOCK: And a forklift.

SIEGEL: What?

BLOCK: A forklift.

(LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF "SYMPHONIE LES ECHANGES")

SIEGEL: "Les Echanges" has been out there a while. Liebermann composed it back in 1964 in honor of Switzerland's National Exposition.

BLOCK: Atlantic senior editor Alexis Madrigal posted the song. And he says when he recently came across it, he was struck by just how quiet our technology has become.

ALEXIS MADRIGAL: When I first was playing with computers in the 1980s, they were so loud. I mean, they had whirring hard drives. They had these fans that were really loud. And you could hear them buzzing all the time. And now, you know, if you look at these MacBook Airs or you look at any of the tablets from Google or Apple, like, they don't make a noise.

(SOUNDBITE OF "SYMPHONIE LES ECHANGES")

SIEGEL: Madrigal says we have office machines today that make noise: printers, fax machines, the occasional ringing cell phone.

MADRIGAL: But what you wouldn't have is any of the mechanical sounds of sort of metal on metal, which drives the sort of percussive nature of the song.

BLOCK: Of course that's unless you're having a particularly bad day and you decide to pound your laptop like a drum.

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