Curated cuisine: Ryuichi Sakamoto's playlist for a Manhattan restaurant
Music affects our restaurant experience on both a sensory and commercial level. In contrast to the usual algorithmic approach, the New York Times recently brought to light the contribution of Ryuichi Sakamoto and his pursuit to improve the background ambience of his favourite local Japanese restaurant in Manhattan.
Sakamoto is a musician and composer with a wide-ranging career. As co-founder of Yellow Magic Orchestra he pioneered synth-pop and techno, and is an Academy Award-winning film-score composer.
Sakamoto loved the food at Kajitsu but found his pleasure curbed by the "thoughtless" background music. As Sakamoto relayed to Ben Ratliff, he eventually approached the chef with his quandary: "Your food is as good as the beauty of Katsura Rikyu. But the music in your restaurant is like Trump Tower.” The content as a mixture of terrible pop music, American folk, and jazz. Sakamoto described how, at one point, the music was so detrimental that he simply had to leave.
Sakamoto offered to curate a specialised playlist for the restaurant, free of charge, that would improve the restaurant's sensory experience, with the help of New York producer Ryu Takahashi. The music focuses on sensitivity and space, and Ratcliff describes the ecstasy in listening to such a unpretentious yet knowledgable curation in the restaurant's surroundings. The playlist does not include any of Sakamoto's own music and had been running for many months prior to Ratcliff's write-up. Ryuichi Sakamoto's exploits highlight the need for thoughtful, professional music selections in service spaces such as shops and restaurants.