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What is your favorite dinner party music?

If I am hosting I usually play jazz. If the food is very specific to one region I will play the music from that region. Maybe that explains why I rarely serve Polish food. :-)

What is your favorite dinner party music?

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      1. re: beevod

        I'm with you. I no longer play music during dinner parties; I find it intrusive.

          1. re: cedarflat

            Based upon some of the comments about not doing it anymore, I wonder if age is a factor? I know I am having a harder time hearing the spoken word over music in restaurants so that is why I keep the music very low when hosting. A level that will not interfere with conversation.

            1. re: Fowler

              "What did you say... ?"

              For music, I still play it, but chose carefully, and attenuate the volume well.

              When someone notices, and asks me the performer, or the composer, I know that I have failed.

              Hunt

            1. re: benila

              Benila,

              They said that you were a person of "few words," but I had not expected this... [Grin]

              Hunt

              1. re: Bill Hunt

                yes really. on every thread benila just rattles on and on and on...

              2. re: beevod

                Agree--none. Maybe it is age. We're over the speed limit (55++) and find music often intrusive. And don't even get me started about music in malls, altho' I tell hubbie that we're not the target demographic...

              3. No. Generally, dinner party music tends to be intrusive and "easy listening" second rate. Now if my hosts hired a string quartet playing Mozart or Haydn, I'd stay until dessert.

                15 Replies
                1. re: beevod

                  We have hired a "string quartet," but I instruct them to keep it low, and work to pick the portfolio, that they play. Again - no one should ever notice. The local symphonies have provided some very talented "youngsters," who "got it."

                  Hunt

                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                    You want the music to be unobtrusive so you hire a string quartet?

                    1. re: Chinon00

                      Yes, and instruct them on what I want for my background. What is so hard to understand about that?

                      Hunt

                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                        If your goal is for the music not to be highlighted, wouldn't recorded music be a better choice; versus hiring four musicians to play (even quietly) in one's home?

                        1. re: Chinon00

                          It depends on the overall mood, that one wishes to create. Sometimes, a little "show" is a positive, so long as the music does not intrude.

                          To date, the "kids" from the symphony have gotten it, and performed beautifully. Plus, it gives them a "paying gig," and wife is on the Symphony board, so is doing her part.

                          On the other side of the "live music: coin, we hosted a party for about 350. The owner of the venue strongly recommended a band, as they had a broad repertoire. Without an audition, we agreed.

                          Now, in my youth, I photographed live rock, so know what loud is. These guys were LOUD. After a half-dozen guests complained to me, I approached the band on a break, and spoke about the dB level. At first, I was told that they always played their music loud. I responded that I was the person paying for their gig, so they needed to make me, and my guests happy. They toned it down, but kept upping the volume. When they did, I just walked by, shaking my checkbook at them. Going to a concert is one thing, but paying for a band at an event is totally different. The guy with the checkbook holds all the cards, and is "the boss."

                          We learned to NEVER hire a band, or allow one to be hired, without a formal audition, and a long discussion about what the band's real role is to be. If they cannot do "background," then I seldom hire them, unless I am promoting a concert.

                          At least the symphony "kids" have all gotten it. Never one question, and never anything but a high degree of professionalism. I like that.

                          Hunt

                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                            " They toned it down, but kept upping the volume. When they did, I just walked by, shaking my checkbook at them."

                            Interesting, Bill, how some try to resolve a simple issue.

                            1. re: Fowler

                              The monetary aspect seemed to be the only "common ground," that we had.

                              To me, it seemed to be "simple," but then to others, not so much.

                              Now, I am an "artist," but in other areas, but when a client has hired me, I understand that they "make the rules." When I am being hired, there are certain conventions, to which I must adhere. When I am doing "my own thing," then I can cut loose. When I am doing pro-bono, and am in complete control, I can do my "David Lynch/Mark Frost" thing, but when I am "on the clock," then I have a boss, to whom I must answer.

                              Hunt

                        2. re: Bill Hunt

                          Even for a dinner party where the music is not the main feature, telling a musician to play so that they wont be noticed is just not right. Would you tell an artist to paint something that no one would bother to look at, so that people will look only at your new rug? Or tell a chef "Dont cook anything so tasty that will distract from the candidate's speech."?

                          As a musician, and one who has played plenty of weddings and other social occasions over the years, I understand what you are saying. People are coming to socialize, not to hear the band, and those events would usually be better served by recorded music.

                          But unless you are telling the musicians point blank, "Here's a chance to practice for money. Just do it quietly", you are (I am certain unintentionally) insulting them.

                          1. re: Fydeaux

                            " Would you tell an artist to paint something that no one would bother to look at, so that people will look only at your new rug? Or tell a chef "Dont cook anything so tasty that will distract from the candidate's speech."?"

                            Excellent point, Fydeaux! There are some hosts (not Bill Hunt, of course) that would hire a string quartet to perform in their home and order them to be almost unnoticed so they (as the host) can maintain the center of attention. Because to them, it is not really about entertaining their guests, it is about the host being the focus of attention. The food, wine, music, etc. must not get in the way of their goal.

                            1. re: Fowler

                              Fowler,

                              Yes. I have instructed several artists to create objects d' art for a particular purpose. To date, all have taken the commission. I had one artist travel from San Diego to Phoenix three times (I paid for the trips), to get one wall-piece just right.

                              My event, my meal, my wines, etc. ARE the "center of attention." I never am, and do not wish to be.

                              I think that you are getting much very wrong, and am not sure why, but that is your problem.

                              Sorry that you can just not understand.

                              Hunt

                              1. re: Fowler

                                c'mon remember there is a difference between an artist (of any type) working on spec and pouring out their heart and one that has been hired contractually on commission.

                                you don't tell a painter you tracked down and say "wow great but can you match my couch?" you just say "oh that one" or a contract is agreed upon and something is done within certain parameters like general size, colors, subject ("I want it to be a portrait of my SO in the desert if s/he had died of malnutrition after gnawing my thanatopic limbs in desperation. only make it cute."). then if you criticized saying "nah too Warholian" the artist could say "what the hell did you expect?" and file for breach of contract against you. saying it's too loud or not the jazz that was expected is sort of acceptable in a pay for play situation.

                                every musician I know has bread and butter gigs yet also lines up spots to do the stuff they truly love and plays (changing names) accordingly.

                                1. re: hill food

                                  Hi hill food,

                                  I am guessing you did not actually intend that to be a response to my reply? I noticed the re: Fowler in your note.

                                  1. re: Fowler

                                    Fowler - Hi, it was meant in general, as the line between commission and spec was getting confused. nothing personal directed at you.

                                    and while I DO respect the integrity of any artist, when one agrees to produce a specific work...well

                                  2. re: hill food

                                    Yea. There are different gigs. Some are "open," while some are to set specs. If one is not comfortable with restrictions, they should not accept.

                                    For me, sometimes I am the "artist," and sometimes, I am the "client."

                                    There have been many assignments, where I knew that I was not the right choice, and declined, often giving a rec.. Then, there have been times, where the provider said the same thing (or very similar), and also declined. Such is life.

                                    Hunt

                                2. re: Fydeaux

                                  I think that you might be missing the point. It is NOT that they should not be "noticed," but that they should be the "background." [Think that I used that same word, but maybe not?]

                                  Maybe it is easy for me to see the differences, as I often score motion pictures for release on DVD-Video and BD, so I understand the nuances. Perhaps others just do not?

                                  As I mentioned to Chinon00, music at an event is totally different, than attending a concert (not just rock). It appears that you fully understand that difference, though some have not.

                                  At two outdoor parties, we have hired Dixieland Jazz bands (wife is from New Orleans, and those parties were NOLA-themed), and we were able to sort of "let 'em go," but after that previous party, I did have a little talk about the dB level. I learned a lesson that night, and have tried to incorporate it into every event afterward.

                                  We also produce a couple of charity events per year, and there is almost always live music. I now know to be very, very detailed about the role of the musicians.

                                  Though I have a very nice sound system, if possible, I prefer live music, where appropriate. When it's a quiet dinner for 10, no live music. When we're hosting 250, then I would always go with live, with a little pep-talk (now - "once bitten - twice shy").

                                  We just did an intimate event, and hired two harpists. That was great. I want to support the musicians in my area, even if I have appropriate recorded material. As I mentioned in the reply to Chinon00, a little bit of that is the "show," but then, I love to give some really good musicians a gig.

                                  Considering your involvement in the business, I think that I might not have been adequately clear, in what I expect. Sorry about that, and my bad.

                                  Hunt

                        3. My "dinner parties" are fairly informal (both those that I host and attend) so I think musical choices more reflect the crowd and host's favorites as opposed to "what will set the tone" here. This weekend a friend had a few of us over for dinner and we listened to a lot of Guided by Voices.

                          1. If I'm having at least 10 and we're starting out with cocktails I'll try for something that sets a mood. Summer often is Harry Belafonte Gold, in the winter it could be Pavarotti if the menu is Italian or maybe Jango Rinehart. But once everyone has arrived, the music goes off--people want to talk!

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: escondido123

                              I also agree on the "mood," and try to pick the right BACKGROUND music for that event. So long as it stays, in the background, I am pleased.

                              Hunt

                            2. We were invited to a dinner party once where the theme was French. Everything was nice but the music.. It was that common French accordion music. Made things seem really forced. So I tend to stay away from at least the more typical ethnic music that might be associated with the cuisine (e.g. "That's Amore" and Italian). If I wanted to have some association between the food and music I might choose to play modern pop music from the country. Something interesting but nothing too intrusive tho' (i.e. Francois Hardy's album "La Question").
                              And like you I too default to jazz for a typical dinner.

                              Thanks

                              1. i like loungy music - like the budha bar cd

                                6 Replies
                                1. re: missmar79

                                  I'll have to take a look into that CD. Thanks.

                                  1. re: Fowler

                                    I cooked in a restaurant that had live jazz on weekends- I kept a noose in the walk-in just in case I couldn't take it any more. Actually I do kind of like some new-agey stuff for casual background music, Ray Lynch, Jean Michel Jarre- that kind of thing or even some Ravi Shankar. Not too intrusive, mostly instrumental and just kind of hangs in the background and isn't something my grandmother used to listen to and isn't Barry Manilow, either.

                                    1. re: LorenM

                                      "I cooked in a restaurant that had live jazz on weekends- I kept a noose in the walk-in just in case I couldn't take it any more. "

                                      Hahaha! I waited tables in a restaurant where the owner played the same Kenny G. CD in the dining room over and over and over night after night. I thought I would go crazy.

                                      1. re: LorenM

                                        Ah, live music can be an issue. Though I have hired local strings, for background, I have been to too many restaurants, that had talented performers, but they were not something that I would want, at one of my dinner parties.

                                        If I notice it, it is too intrusive.

                                        Hunt

                                  2. My personal choice is either nothing or calm chamber music. Mrs. O likes her kinda punky '70s and '80s faves, B-52s and Blondie and the like; when she's in charge of the sound track she used to tune in a cable music channel, but now it's an iPod mix. It's okay, I just do the food and we're all happy.

                                    1. Electronic, "lounge" style

                                      1. if there must be, Gilberto Getz, some Tom Waits, Nino Rota.

                                        10 Replies
                                        1. re: hill food

                                          I'd go along with that. So would Mrs. O - she's a total Rota freak. Sometimes I think that's her only reason to watch Fellini movies.

                                          We aren't really addressing music in restaurants, but I'd like to say that there's an expensive-but-friendly Japanese/French place here in Pasadena, Maison Akira, where the music is classical and Baroque chamber music played just loud enough to listen if you want to, but you can still converse in normal tones. Dang, I wish that were more common!

                                          1. re: Will Owen

                                            "just loud enough to listen if you want to, but you can still converse in normal tones"

                                            if only that were the trend. why restaurants started hiring dj's during the dotcom years and didn't dump the noise when that bombed is beyond me.

                                            1. re: Will Owen

                                              There is a restaurant near us that is split into a formal dining room and then a lounge/bar with a less formal menu. The formal side has no music so you can hear every word said at the tables around you while the lounge side has music that's way too loud. Last time we were there, a group of women were whooping it up at the next table so we asked whether the music could be turned down. Hard sometimes to great the right levels. Now if the trend toward TVs in non-sports bars could only be reversed!

                                            2. re: hill food

                                              I was thinking of Dee Snider, and played very loud...

                                              Hunt

                                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                Hunt - yes I had you pegged for a Twisted Sister fan. (I KNEW it!) admit it. you even have the wig right?

                                                I've always thought a good idea for recorded music in a club/restaurant/bar would be to attach the woofers to a 'sprung' floor (built like a dance floor) so everyone feels the bass line and rhythm w/o really hearing it so if one chose one could don limited broadcast headphones (like a self-guided tour in a museum) for the rest of it.

                                                1. re: hill food

                                                  Until a recent "Kitchen Nightmares" episode, I did not know who Dee Snider was. I had heard the name, but could not quit place it. A quick Google Search turned up the answer. Then, this thread gave me an opportunity to use my new-found knowledge... [Grin]

                                                  Sorry, but I go way, way back, and seem to have missed many "pages" in the history of rock music. Shoot, Alice Cooper is younger than me (and beats me in golf at our club), but I still try to stay somewhat current on music, of all genres.

                                                  I am still bidding on Alice guitars for my younger brother, who is much more of a contemporary, than I am.

                                                  In many sound systems, with which I have worked, a "sprung floor" is not necessary. One can be made to FEEL the LFE (nowadays), by other means. However, LFE is not something that I want featured at one of my events - just the opposite. I can create sounds, that make one's insides vibrate, but only use such, where required. Dinner is not one of those instances.

                                                  The Dee Snider reference was more "in fun," but thank you for noticing.

                                                  Hunt

                                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                    I didn't think that idea would work for you I was thinking more of nightclubs that don't want to annoy the neighbors (much) I'd forgotten that Alice lives somewhere near Camelback. haven't been around there in years.

                                                    1. re: hill food

                                                      Yeah, he's a bit "young" for me, but then my little brother has always been a big fan.

                                                      OTOH, he is very generous with his time, and supports many common causes, plus is a great fellow, so I support him, though I could be his father.

                                                      I always try to support those, who give so openly to the community, and Alice does just that.

                                                      That said, I doubt that I would "hire" him to do one of my events, but would gladly INVITE him to attend. Big difference. Personally, I would rather have him sipping wine with me, and explaining how he beats me on the links, than "working."

                                                      Hunt

                                                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                        same here. although while I do like some of his songs, the venue is crucial.

                                                        but it would be a hoot to see a bunch of folks at a fundraiser in evening wear trying to "rock out" to him in full gear circa 1975...(and if I were him I wouldn't agree to it "oh get a cover band if that's what you want")

                                                        1. re: hill food

                                                          Ah, the venue! That CAN be a great determinate. So much of the early shows were great, theatrical productions, and one (well, myself) often sort of forgot the music, due to the theater on stage. Many bands/performers, just before, or during that time, did similar, and often with great effect.

                                                          Now, I have to say that Alice has attended many of our events in Phoenix, and has never hesitated to mount the stage and perform. Even without any theatrics, and with, say David Foster's band, can really rock. I kinda' wish that I had been younger, and had paid a bit more attention to his music, when it was current. Nah, hat's off to him as both a performer and a philanthropist. He has never let us down. Now, if I could only be the high-bidder on one of his autographed guitars, for my little brother, who adored Alice Cooper, in his prime. If I keep missing by only one bid, at the last second, I might make a plea, when I pay him off on the golf course, for my losses?

                                                          Hunt

                                            3. Some Van Morrison, David Grey, Sam Cooke, Miles Davis, Beatles, Steely Dan...depends on the crowd, and my mood.

                                              1. I choose a variety of types of music, nothing that will be interuptive, but interesting enough to cause comment and provide a new topic for conversation when the inevitable lull occurs. The East Village Opera Company is very good for this, as is Rhythm Del Mundo, and Susan Werner.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: Fydeaux

                                                  Personally, I want it to be below that level. I want it to just barely enhance, but never make notice of itself.

                                                  Hunt

                                                  PS - I realize that this is an older thread, and some of those, who I am replying to, might not be with us any longer, but the subject is still viable.

                                                2. We usually burn a mix of what my partner likes and what I like; heavy on the music preference of the person who is cobbling together the CD. This can range from classical, big band and movie theme music (his tastes) to 60s and 70s classics and contemporary alternative (my tastes). With that broad spectrum of music, at some point in the evening something will eventually play that each guest will comment on.

                                                  1. I like to abdicate some control at gatherings permitting a certain degree of spontaneity. Thus, I find that using one of the online services like LastFM or Pandora is a great way to provide some background without pretending that I can (or am interested in trying to) soundtrack the party. Pick a genre, an artist, a song, whatever and see where things go. If you think it hits a dead end, you can always pick another.

                                                    1. Depending on the mood and menu, I choose from Ella, Sting, Sade, Gipsy Kings, Ottmar Liebert, Buena Vista Social Club (people always seem to LOVE this album), Putumayo lounge CDs, and other selections with a generally Latin and/or Jazz backbone...

                                                      6 Replies
                                                      1. re: inaplasticcup

                                                        If you set BVSC as your Pandora, for example, "station," you wind up with a night of music (and maybe discover some other interesting stuff, like Compay Segundo recordings) instead of only 70 minutes. Given your tastes, I think you might enjoy trying it.

                                                        1. re: MGZ

                                                          Thanks, MGZ! Love Compay Segundo and will definitely check out the Pandora station.

                                                          I do, however, get a lot more airtime because I compile songs into itunes playlists. I know there are a lot of detractors, but GAWD do I love itunes, and this is but one of the many reasons... :)))

                                                          1. re: inaplasticcup

                                                            In that case, you might find the LastFM design more interesting as it will synch with your iTunes and play both tracks off of it as well as recommendations based upon what is contained on it. (What can I say, we listen to a lot of music.)

                                                            1. re: MGZ

                                                              I've heard of LastFM, but haven't really looked into it. Thanks for all these great music tips!

                                                              1. re: inaplasticcup

                                                                p-cup - last.fm can lead you into all sorts of interesting segues

                                                              2. re: MGZ

                                                                oooh I didn't know that thanks MGZ

                                                          1. re: benila

                                                            Irrespective of the title, I could only imagine that song at breakfast at Blackberry Farm, and then, only if the volume was greatly attenuated. Still, I could see a logical place for it, around a meal, but with major reservations.

                                                            Guess that it's just me?

                                                            Hunt

                                                          2. I have some music, that I would typify as "background," and often rely on it. I hope that no one even notices it, and as I have heard most pieces dozens of times, never even pay attention to it. It is there, but should never be noticed.

                                                            Hunt

                                                            1. I have a Barry Manilow Christmas song CD I put on when my guests stay too late.

                                                              7 Replies
                                                              1. re: Veggo

                                                                You know, I will bet that that DOES clear the house!

                                                                Hunt

                                                                1. re: Veggo

                                                                  Veggo - that's good, but I used to get REALLY hardcore with Diamanda Galas (Wild Women with Steak Knives) or the Residents (Vileness Fats or was it DUCK STAB! - i don't recall) they always did the trick except for the stoners but they were harmless so I'd just toss a blanket on them and they'd be gone by AM.

                                                                  polka works too

                                                                  1. re: hill food

                                                                    Wow! You are speaking a language, that is far beyond my "pay grade." I feel that there might be a wonderful "joke" lurking in there somewhere, but am just not qualified.

                                                                    Still, thank you for getting me to think, even if I sit, with that "old-guy blank look" on my face.

                                                                    Hunt

                                                                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                      google them Bill, and turn the volume down, way down, I like the Residents and there's a lot going on in there under the surface, but either them or Diamanda can make your ears curl in a protective gesture similar to the phenomenon of the cremaster reflex... yer warned

                                                                      and as for the Polka? blast it and say to yourself "ehh screw the neighbors I have slugs"

                                                                      1. re: hill food

                                                                        I will do that, though will likely hide my eyes, when I get to their Web site.

                                                                        I have a feeling that I am about to encounter Captain Beefheart, and his Trout Mask Replica album. Totally uncharted territory.

                                                                        Should I book them for my next event?

                                                                        Thank you,

                                                                        Hunt

                                                                        1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                          oh the Residents love Beefheart and usually perform in tuxes and head-sized eyeball masks. nothing bad to see, but some songs are found annoying. they're a semi-anonymous collective and nobody really knows who they are or even if the line-up now has anything to do with that of the early 70's. but in a way it doesn't matter

                                                                          if they accept bookings you would be the talk of the town....but who knows. I haven't heard anything recent so who knows what toboggan ride their work has taken them down.

                                                                          1. re: hill food

                                                                            Wow! Sounds interesting. I think that I am learning something, and even at my advanced age.

                                                                            Thanks for the info - though not sure that I would be playing their music at dinner (same for the good Captain).

                                                                            Hunt

                                                                2. We always have music but keep it low. If I am having a theme--the music goes with it and sometimes we will get a little kitschey. My only problem is my husband has a little trouble hearing and he turns it up.

                                                                  1. Anything but strolling mariachis.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: BubblyOne

                                                                      That brings back memories!

                                                                      We were doing a great "road-trip," with a great friend. He had a major headache, and the "strolling mariachis" kept playing in his ear. He could not take it anymore, so stepped out to the parking lot. When he did, someone in a car, passing on the near-by Interstate, fired a shot at him. Really bad night. Every time that I see, or hear, "strolling mariachis," I think of that night.

                                                                      Thanks for the memories, even though I was not the "target."

                                                                      Hunt

                                                                    2. Live music. Our "dinner parties" around here are pretty informal. In fact, they are usually jam sessions with food.

                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                      1. re: wyogal

                                                                        A few of us play instruments so music is def part of most dinner parties but I have learned that if you play music that doesn't contain lyrics then you don't have that additional 'talk' competing with your dinner conversation. Volume on the low and that often changes as the dinner conversation winds down and guests are enjoying that last cocktail or coffee before heading home.

                                                                        1. re: HillJ

                                                                          I recall my uncle (who is a audiophile) mentioning that he'd simply reduced the mid-range in the music at parties and it always served him well; in terms of being able to have music but also have it not interfering with conversation. My current equipment doesn't have mid-range adjustment but it does have a loudness button; which boosts the bass so that it can still register at very low volume. Sort of the same thing I guess.

                                                                      2. I am a huge fan of the station on Pandora based off of Andrew Birds album "Bowl Of Fire" check it out.

                                                                        1. "Mob Hits" played softly and in the background. Mangia!

                                                                          1. Usually soft Italian pop/folk...Mannarino, Vinicio Caposella, Brunori SAS, Bandabardo, Il Parto delle Nuvole Pesanti, etc, but not blaringly loud. It's enjoyable sitting on the front porch with some wine and cheese, looking out into the veg garden, wind chimes clinking away.
                                                                            Very relaxing.

                                                                            1. Cool jazz. for dinner parties. For a romantic dinner, Billie Holiday or Frank Sinatra.