If you haven't been to the West Village in a while, you might not have noticed LYFE Kitchen, which sprung up recently in the spot that used to house Lemon Bar. The fast-casual restaurant is devoted to meeting your every dietary need while supplying you with plenty of shrubbery. Outside the restaurant -- flanking the fake street that would welcome pedestrians into the shopping complex if not for the crass metal gate that's always closed off -- is a nice patio so you can eat your tofu and drink your chia seeds while soaking up the sun.
Music pours from speakers up above, including the artists often featured in commercials about global warming and inhumane slaughter, like Coldplay. I guess the music is supposed to remind you that you're doing a good thing for the world by choosing to consumed responsibly sourced animal proteins. And it might work if Mi Cocina didn't have a competing patio with blaring trumpets just across the street.
Here, brassy horns blast while Spanish lyrics detail some lament that most of the English speaking customers can't understand. There's nothing wrong with the music, just as there's nothing wrong with LYFE's commercial pop ballads, but there's something terribly wrong when the two meet in the middle. It's a cacophony.
An even better example of this patio dissonance can be experienced at Trinity Groves, where multiple patios are strung together to create one massive front porch. Here, in the span of 100 paces, you can experience cool lounge beats, a buzzy sitar punctuating Middle Eastern music and bad classic rock.
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How is anyone thinking, let alone having meaningful conversations?
Music is important in dining rooms because it fills the void and sets the tone for an evening. Without it you'd hear every clank of silverware on porcelain, every server's murmur. Patios, on the other hand, are filled with a different sort of noise -- the din of street sounds, pedestrians and traffic that make up the ambient music of any urban environment. Music might be able to enhance this in some instances, but not if it's clashing with disparate speakers just a few yards away.
While I was listening to the dissonance between these two restaurants the other night, I couldn't help but to think of the modern composer John Cage. While I'm not sure his piece that calls for four minutes and thirty-three seconds of silence meets my definition of mellifluous or soulful, his appreciation of ambient sound really resonates with me. Sometimes you want to listen to the silence while you dine. It's soothing.
Inside the sealed environment of a dining room, crank it. But outside, where cars whizz by and movie goers chatter, there's no need for blaring speakers. The music is already there.