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Coffee Talk

So I’ve been obsessing about this recently: a cup of coffee has been DESCRIBED as a “cacophony of nuance.” This cup of coffee costs $12. A friend of mine actually tasted it and joked that it tasted like “a Bartók string quartet in his mouth.” Another mentioned a sign he saw for coffee recently that said “Taste the Aroma!”

The point is — it’s really hard to talk about coffee and/or music! And the “cacophony of nuance” pretty much sums that up. There is some music that is a cacophony of nuance I suppose. Would anyone like to try a cup of Unsuk Chin? It’s a Korean made coffee made in Germany and it’s a wonderful blend of Hungarian and French roasts. Hyper-complex with a hint of D Major here and there. It’s a CACOPHONY OF NUANCE!

Anyway it’s hard to talk about music and coffee, and it’s hard to know what you’re buying if you are a music or coffee customer. Recently I walked into Chicago’s famed Intelligentsia Coffee in search of new flavor. I had gone through a pound of Serra do Bonè: Brazil and it wasn’t working for me. But when I tried to describe what I didn’t like about it, I was at a loss for words, because I didn’t know the COFFEE LINGO. I was like, “it was kind of sour.” And the barista guy was all, “??” I should have read the label on my airtight coffee bag (it pushes the air out if you squeeze it, really quite cool). “Creamy and decadent, with a chocolate truffle focus. Dried raspberries add dimension to the otherwise soft acidity.” Very descriptive, no? But it’s Bad English again. The first sentence isn’t even a sentence. Also, I don’t know what dried raspberries taste like! Has anyone ever had one? Anyway, we know this kind of thing from wine lingo. I asked the barista guy for something a “little less fruity” and “more bitter.” He told me that Intlligentsia Coffee is “really trying to steer their customers away from that taste” but nonetheless recommended Black Cat Classic Espresso noting that it “wasn’t really an espresso.” “This syrupy sweet espresso blend has been the staple of our lineup since the very beginning. Supreme balance and a wonderful sweetness make this a classic.” It’s syrupy, sweet (so sweet they say it twice) and balanced (what is the syrupy sweetness balanced with?), and it’s great because we say it’s great! These descriptions don’t help. They’re vague and subjective, but perhaps they’re good marketing tools, I don’t know.

What I wonder about is what happens when a PATRON calls my wonderful orchestra’s PATRON SERVICES (1-888-745-4717 call now!) DEPARTMENT and asks about the music? What do they say? In that coffee shop I bet I felt like lots of our audience members! Orchestra marketing is way more friendly and stays away from the whole “Intelligentsia” angle in general. You’re not gonna hear “We’re really trying to steer our patrons away from Tchaikovsky and more towards R. Murray Schafer.” But maybe we should do that! It might be fun to try. When I look through our current brochure, I see only one description that really gets into “coffee description” territory. And that’s for a concert we’re doing with Dan Deacon.

“Dan Deacon’s music is simultaneously dance party, electronic odyssey, minimalist magnum opus, and childhood gone horribly right.”

I have no idea at all what that means, but I’ll have a cup of that.

I think I’m going to start getting into this! Composer descriptions that read like the ones on my coffee bags! We could do it for performers too! It might be really fun! I’m sure before long it will reach a crescendo, but the only casualty will be the English language! Let’s go!