Ryuichi Sakamoto | Photo by Wing Shya
Have you ever had this happen to you? You’re enjoying a meal at a restaurant but the music is driving you crazy! One of the most memorable dining experiences I ever had was lunch at a beautiful restaurant in the Tuscan countryside. It was exquisite; the food, the presentation, the service, the setting. Exquisite on every level but one! The background music was awful. I would describe it as “early lounge lizard”. My thought at the time was, does anyone have a CD of Vivaldi we could drop in? A little Bill Evans? Cyndi Lauper? Really anything would have been better! If I had been living nearby and not just passing through, I might have offered the restaurant my services as a music curator, much as the renowned Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto recently did in New York City.
He loved everything about Kajitsu, a Japanese restaurant in Murray Hill, except the BGM, the industry term for background music. So, taking into account the decor, food, general vibe of the restaurant, Sakamoto put together a dream playlist, perfectly suited to the zen experience of eating at Kajitsu. In this article from the New York Times, you can see and hear excerpts from the Sakamoto playlist and judge for yourself.
This story makes me think about my favorite restaurants and the music they play. First off, I can’t always hear the music very well. My friends will say, “Oh, I love this song.” and all I hear is the bass line. (Uh-oh, hearing loss in the upper register?) But in general, the music out there seems predictable and banal. Can you name a restaurant in town that’s really nailed the whole BGM thing? And, of course, I have to put it out there, does anyone play predominately classical music or even just KUSC? Now that’s a place I would patronize!