Sound and the City

Abstract: Are expert aesthetic judgments of restaurants shaped by sound and music? Although sound is an important design element of a built space devoted to consumerism like a restaurant, it is a typically overlooked aesthetic structure. This project analyzes how widely read and influential food writing help the general public define the acceptable repertoire of music and sound in restaurants. I draw on a sample of major restaurant reviews that appear in the LexisNexis archives of the San Francisco Chronicle and The New York Times from January 1, 1998, until December 31, 2010. Specifically, I examine 1208 reviews written by thirteen reviewers in the San Francisco Chronicle, and 598 reviews written by four reviewers in the New York Times. I connect critics’ evaluations of sound in fine dining establishments to the emplacement of those practices within New York City and San Francisco. By doing so, this project explores how place-based background aesthetics mediate expert opinion and facilitate consumption in the city.

Citation: Lang, John T. 2014. “Sound and the City: Noise in Restaurant Critics’ Reviews.” Food, Culture and Society 17(4):571-589.

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