Let Me Put You On To Something: No Music At Dinner Parties

Oskar Schlemmer's Dinner Party

Look, as far as I'm concerned, you never have to do anything you don't want to do, and certainly not on my account. I can hardly come over to your house and turn off your speakers. If you like music at dinner, by all means, play music at dinner. Who's stopping you? Why does everything have to be such a confrontation with you?

I do not mind admitting it; I am a crank when it comes to music in company. I do not attend concerts. I like music plenty, but there's no band or singer in the world I'd rather hear in concert than through my own headphones. If I am in a cafe or restaurant and see a band start setting up, I'll leave, even if I'm in the middle of a meal. I like listening to music quietly, at my own discretion, and without bringing anybody else into it. If I like a song, I'd like to hear it forty times in a row in a single sitting; I realize this is violently antisocial behavior and would never dream of subjecting anyone else to it, which is why I listen to music almost exclusively through headphones. It's better that way; music belongs inside the head, not floating aimlessly around in space and knocking strangers down. I don't pretend to speak for a silent majority, is what I mean. But neither do I think I am completely alone.

What I'm trying to say is: Recently the three of us entertained a few old friends for dinner. The question of music came up as we were drifting towards the table: Shall we put some music on? We should probably put some music on, shouldn't we? Who wants to put on some music? Suddenly the thought occurred to me, and no sooner did the thought occur than I voiced it in speech: "What if we don't listen to music during dinner?" Some were indifferent, others neutral; Grace was I think a trifle disappointed. But one of our guests was in raptures. Yes, she said, let's listen to no music while we have dinner, and we exchanged significant speaking glances. She understood.

Consider: no music at dinner. It's wonderful. It's peaceful. You can hear people talking. (If you're worried about uncomfortable silences, there weren't any, partly because it's still very hot out so the AC was running the whole time and partly because none of us are quiet by nature.) You're not worrying about whether the next song will be to anyone's taste, or if the playlist is going to end before the dinner does, or getting distracted by trying to listen to a conversation and a singer at the same time. I loved it. I felt truly free. I wish restaurants had huge signs outside that flashed either WE PLAY MUSIC WHILE YOU EAT or WE DON'T PLAY MUSIC WHILE YOU EAT, so consumers could choose whether they wanted to chat companionably with their friends while they eat, or lose every third word to the sound of two dozen other tables' worth of people trying to talk loudly enough that they can be heard over the music. Music is not the food of love! Food is food and music is music and as far as I'm concerned they shouldn't have anything do with one another (dinner theater and cabarets will be taken on a case-by-case basis, but I look down on them as a rule). No man can serve two masters, and I cannot have a conversation while someone is also singing.

Like I said, I'm not going to come over to your house and knock the AUX cord out of your hand; if you like playing music when you entertain, do it for the rest of your life and ignore me at your leisure. But when I talk to people, I want to talk to people; when I want to listen to music, I want to play Civilization VI and pretend I'm the only man left alive on the face of the Earth. Try it. You might like it!

[Image via Wikimedia Commons]