Thursday, July 12, 2012

Restaurant Music

Now here's something odd. I was in a restaurant the other day--the kind that you could describe as a fashionable bistro striving for quality. They had a quite good menu with creative and interesting dishes, well-prepared. The service was attentive. I didn't sample, but the wine-list looked interesting and thoughtfully assembled. The layout of the restaurant was well-designed and they had some interesting antique furniture as well as quite a number of original paintings. So, on the whole a well-thought out experience. But guess what, the music was the kind of music that people who are oblivious to music think is good music. It was sort of a melange of easy-listening noodling and ambient soundscape. That is, music of no quality. True, it wasn't aggressively annoying the way music in so many places is. But the enormous divergence between the attention to quality everywhere else and the neglect of quality with the music was quite striking.

Only to me, though, I guess!

I think this might have been more appropriate:

The troubling thing is that many of the patrons might have been bothered by this music. In England, mall owners have resorted to playing classical music to drive away mobs of rowdy "youths". Here's the link to a story. There are examples of this in the US as well, here and here. Anne Midgette has a column on the phenomenon. In that column she mentions that, just as classical music can drive away the "great unwashed" it is suitable for "fine-dining establishments". But it may be the case that even in fine restaurants, classical music is no longer suitable as the sphere of classical listeners has shrunk to the point that even the affluent no longer are accustomed to it.

I'm an eccentric listener by most people's standards, I'm sure. First of all, I hate background music on principle. Probably a result of years of ear-training and listening tests, I can't NOT listen to music.  Background music is supposed to be ignored, but I always find myself listening to it unless I am in conversation. Since I do this, the kind of music that is popular for background music, the meandering, formless kind, I find particularly irritating.

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