Does music make scents to you?
In today's New York Times, restaurant critic-turned-columnist Frank Bruni (one of my current faves) serves up a crisply written, deliciously disdainful description of Romera New York, a new restaurant that pairs its outlandish dishes with complementary scented waters. The pretensions of Romera's presentations get their just desserts from Bruni's sharp skewering. But of course, there's nothing novel in foodies savoring the relationship of taste and smell. Neither can one ignore the senses of sight (appearance), touch (texture) and even hearing (everything from sizzle to snap, crackle, pop) when enjoying a meal.
Now, you know me -- as I read Bruni's column, I of course tried to figure out a way this could apply to music . How could the engagement of each of the senses enrich the enjoyment of our beloved aural art?
Of all the other senses, sight plays the biggest role in musical enjoyment, and not just when it comes to the performers' appearance, costumes or staging. For instance, check out this video of the first movement of J. S. Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 to see how the visual element -- the dance of the players' bows, especially --enhances your comprehension of Bach's musical architecture.
The other senses can also be evoked when describing the sound of music, be it rough, smooth, sweet, sour, salty (like a sea shanty) or even fragrant (like a jasmine-scented Chinese folk tune). But unless you're a synaesthesiast, such as composers Alexander Scriabin and Michael Torke, music triggers those other senses only figuratively, not literally.
On the other hand, if you want to complement your musical enjoyment with another pleasure that excites all five senses, pour yourself a glass of a good old grape. Taste? Of course. Smell? Swirl you glass (counter-clockwise in the northern hemisphere, of course), stick in your nose, sniff. Touch? Ooh, the mouth feel of a great wine! Sight? Hold your glass up the light, tilt it slightly, and enjoy the gorgeous color Hearing? Pop a cork, fill the flute, and listen for the bubbles of a good Champagne or other sparkler.
Now, if you were to ask me how to pair different wines with different music, I would defer to your own taste. I do likewise when advising food and wine pairings, a simple matter that the experts tend to complicate, as experts are wont to do. Hence, my simple advice: Pour wine you like, listen to music you like, and enjoy both with people you like. Works every time.
More about the relationship of music and wine in a later post. For now...cincin!