SUPERADDITIVE MUSICAL AMUSE-BOUCHES (2018)
In collaboration with Barbareño Restaurant, Santa Barbara
Co-founder Jesse Gaddy and Co-founder/Head Chef Julian Martinez
Uniting sound, touch, taste, and smell into one cross-sensory musical experience, this installation is comprised of an assortment of short gastronomic-electroacoustic-vibrotactile compositions created in close collaboration between the composer Alexis Story Crawshaw and the Santa Barbara restaurant Barbareño.
In the installation, tiny gastronomic tastes are presented and served at a table while loud speakers and a vibrotactile bench provide the corresponding sonic and haptic musical components, respectively. Guests can sample the tastes while sitting on the benches, feeling/listening to the paired sounds and vibrations. A visual score graphically indicates which of the four tastes to sample at any given time.
The key subject of artistic exploration with these compositional “amuse- bouches”—small, delicately crafted hors-d’oeuvres— concerns the perceptual phenomenon of superadditivity. With superadditivity, the fusion of sonic, haptic, and gastronomical components results in a sensory experience that is collectively distinct and more pronounced than the simple combination of its parts alone would suggest. As a further aim, superadditivity is explored in a novel way through biomechanical resonances. Low-frequency vibrotactile components are composed so as to activate different structural resonances of the seated human body (e.g. different regions of the skeletal system). The works explore how these different resonances modulate different aspects of flavor perception, creating a dynamic modulation of the flavors over time.
Products of an art-science methodology, these compositions are informed by a survey of the cross-modal perception literature on the cross-sensory, and particularly superadditive, effects of music with flavor. Additionally, the creative approaches in this work are further refined from conducting a few original, informal perceptual studies, particularly concerning biomechanical resonances. As such, the acoustic-haptic and gastronomic components are conceived of collectively as a unit. These elements are composed in tandem, with the common objective of producing a singular, combinatorial effect.
Aesthetically, these pieces are inspired by Sergei Prokofiev’s Visions Fugitives, pianistic “amuse-oreilles” themselves, exquisite ephemeral works, many lasting around a minute or less. This project aims to evoke the same sense of concentrated expression and transience as these works—in this case, we’re doing so in searching for a new kind of sensorial expression. In this project, these qualities are approached through the use of digital media in conjunction with the similar and familiar gastronomic medium of the amuse-bouche, and transformed through cross-sensory art- science inquiry.