During a recent foray into the mountain range to the west of Sydney that is geologically known as
'The Great Dividing Range, or sometimes, colloquially, the Eastern
Ranges', but is in this particular region of the mountains known as the 'Blue
Mountains' (and readers unfamiliar with Australian geographic features should note that the feature in question is not a mountain at all, but an uplifted plateau, the highest point of which is a sandcastle-like 1,215 metres) I occasioned to stop at an establishment known as the
'Loaves and the
Dishes' (a biblical reference, one assumes) to partake of some sustenance.
As my rather large (and quite delicious) soup de jour (Moroccan bean) was served, so too was a blast of sound served up from the café's rather nondescript audio system. However, the music that struggled to find its way past an underpowered amplifier and possibly a torn loudspeaker cone or two (maybe even minus a tweeter into the bargain) was simply glorious: the
unmistakable strains of
Bach's Partita No. 2 in C Minor. Despite the total lack of fidelity (infidelity?), I
couldn't help but slow down (and quiet) my sup-supping to ensure I didn't miss a note.
I'd only just managed to eke out the soup when one of my 'desert island' picks followed: Bach's 5th French Suite in G major. I love the whole work, but to hear it in full (and in order that I did not miss the Gigue, which is indescribably beautiful) meant I had to order and sit on a cappuccino for
'way too long. This gave me plenty of time to observe that the café was fairly empty, and although this was no doubt mostly because it was well past lunch time, it did cause me to wonder if the music played in a café (or restaurant) has any bearing on customer satisfaction (or dissatisfaction) and therefore return visit rates.
For a start, it's rare for me to hear classical music played in any shop, café or restaurant. And supermarkets, which have done exhaustive research into consumer listening habits, not only
don't classical music... they don't even play jazz. So far as I can recall, the background music played in supermarkets, shopping malls and department stores is all middle-of-the-road. I also puzzled as to why I was lingering and listening to a sub-par sound system when I could have gone home and listened to exactly the same music in the very highest fidelity. I have no answers to any of these questions.
As for me staying to listen, I suspect it was, in part, simply the novelty of hearing familiar music in an unfamiliar environment. Also, in part, that Bach always forces me to listen to his
compositions... I need to hear them weave, turn, twist, invert and resolve. I need to hear them end. It may also have been that since I was away from my own home, I was totally relaxed, and more able to enjoy music because I had none of the normal distractions that can intrude on
one's enjoyment when listening at home. (The nagging feeling that perhaps you should be doing some cleaning, or cooking, or home
repairs...) Of course, this is one of the beauties of concert-going. Not only are you hearing the highest-possible fidelity, in a familiar environment,
you're also, for a brief few hours, freed from the distractions of day-to-day life to enjoy music, glorious