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A little dinner music

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ONE of my household duties is the choosing of suitable music to accompany our meals, and although I now consider myself a proficient selector, I did not arrive at this state without a good deal of trial and error and indigestion. When we first purchased a stereo system, we set the two speakers parallel to the dining table, realizing that, although we are avid music lovers, mealtimes would likely be our only opportune listening moments.

At first I was enthralled with the system's fidelity, and I recall a Sunday meal being taken amid the noise of my sound effects ``demo'' record. I remarked excitedly at how realistic it sounded when the locomotive seemed to be traveling from left to right speaker, never realizing that the train had to drive over my wife's mashed potatoes and Brussels sprouts to get there. This was perhaps the low point in my experience as mealtime program director. My choice lacked subtlety and nuance.

When it was suggested (in a rather loud voice) that I play music records, I turned to one of my favorite composers, Beethoven. He is, of course, a powerhouse, and the vigor of his fast movements invariably inspired me to wave my fork around in conductor fashion (music conductor, not train), to the consternation of my dinner companion, who had read, and seemingly memorized, Emily Post's etiquette books.

Beethoven's slow movements had a different effect. They seemed to speak of courage in the face of enormous suffering. But they made us feel so dolorous that all dinner conversation would trail off into a whisper after only a sentence of two, unless we happened to latch on to a topic that suited the spirit of the music -- suitable topics being the sinking of the Titanic and the Hindenburg disaster.

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