Want to boost the body of your Pinot Noir, then turn up the bass!
The latest paper from my current doctoral research exploring the sensory and aesthetic interactions between wine and sound has been published in Multisensory Research. The product of a great project that involved Professor Charles Spence and Dr Janice Wang at Oxford University’s Crossmodal Research Laboratory, with input from my co-supervisor at the University of Adelaide, Associate Professor Sue Bastian.
Taste the Bass: Low Frequencies Increase the Perception of Body and Aromatic Intensity in Red Wine
Associations between heaviness and bass/low-pitched sounds reverberate throughout music, philosophy, literature, and language. Given that recent research into the field of cross-modal correspondences has revealed a number of robust relationships between sound and flavour, this exploratory study was designed to investigate the effects of lower frequency sound (10 Hz to 200 Hz) on the perception of the mouthfeel character of palate weight/body. This is supported by an overview of relevant cross-modal studies and cultural production. Wines were the tastants — a New Zealand Pinot Noir and a Spanish Garnacha — which were tasted in silence and with a 100 Hz (bass) and a higher 1000 Hz sine wave tone. Aromatic intensity was included as an additional character given suggestions that pitch may influence the perception of aromas, which might presumably affect the perception of wine body. Intensity of acidity and liking were also evaluated. The results revealed that the Pinot Noir wine was rated as significantly fuller-bodied when tasted with a bass frequency than in silence or with a higher frequency sound. The low frequency stimulus also resulted in the Garnacha wine being rated as significantly more aromatically intense than when tasted in the presence of the higher frequency auditory stimulus. Acidity was rated considerably higher with the higher frequency in both wines by those with high wine familiarity and the Pinot Noir significantly better liked than the Garnacha. Possible reasons as to why the tones used in this study affected perception of the two wines differently are discussed. Practical application of the findings are also proposed.
Jo Burzynska and Professor Anina Rich were interviewed about the Osmic Resonance project by Bec Dean for The Constellations podcast series. This episode of the series exploring art projects that operate at the intersections of science and technology can be accessed through the link above or on iTunes.
For the last ten days I have undergone a sensory immersion in the winemaking process, as the resident artist at Pollinaria. An organic farm and arts research programme in rural Abruzzo, Italy, Pollinaria promotes a productive fusion of art and science, human life and the environment, and includes a number of vineyards, as well as its own winery. It was here, towards the end of the 2018 grape harvest, amongst Pollinaria’s vines and fermenting wines that my oenosonic encounters unfurled.
Credit: Daniela d’Arielli / Pollinaria
My work as a wine writer has obviously meant much time devoted to tasting wine; professionally this has been predominantly within a rational framework: applying the knowledge I’ve built up through two decades of study and experience, and making aesthetic and quality judgments. This role has also seen me spend a significant amount of time in vineyards and wineries, very often accompanied by commentary from and discussion with whoever is my guide. In these professional visits, affective responses can be reduced, sensorial experience subdued and correspondences overlooked in this clamour of the conceptual. In contrast, this residency was very much focused on connection with the senses: with my own, within the wine environments experienced and with each other.
Credit: Daniela d’Arielli / Pollinaria
As my primary mode of enquiry in this residency was the sensorial, I started with a sensory mapping of both Pollinaria’s home vineyard and winery, avoiding the visual, whose dominance can so often blind us to what’s going on in other sensory domains. Much of this simply involved being present in the environments to tune into and note sensations as they arose. Just as I sought to overcome ingrained intellectual approaches within my relationship to wine, I sought to bring fresh ears to the sonic environments which were at once familiar, but quickly offered up many sounds that I’d not attended to before.
Credit: Daniela d’Arielli / Pollinaria
In the recordings that I went on to make in next part of the project, I returned to Pollinaria’s home vineyard and its historic vaulted wine cellar; the oldest parts of the latter date from the 15th Century when it was a monastery, which has been revived in recent years by Poillanria director, Gaetano Carboni. I endeavoured to capture both the audible experiences I’d noticed, as well as uncovering sounds that I’d not been able to hear through using a selection of different microphones; such as ants moving and communicating in the soil under the vines and fermentation deep in the barrels and tanks. I also tasted the wines, endeavouring to move away from mediating my experience through the mental creation of a traditional tasting note, to something that more closely reflected the raw perceptual experience. Given my background, this proved the hardest task of all!
These recordings, mappings, and sensory research will go be used in the creation a new wine-focused multisensory work in the coming year, in which sensory interactions shift perceptions on what is tasted, smelled and heard.
Pollinaria is unique residency programme, in being a working farm – growing the likes of grapes, olives and wheat organically – that offers artists the opportunity to interact with agriculture. This residency is not about an escape from city pressures to a rural idyll, but promotes a direct, creative engagement with the work of the countryside and its regeneration. With its own vineyards and now restored winery, Pollinaria seemed the perfect place for my creative research in the multisensory dimensions of wine. I was therefore extremely excited when I was invited by Gaetano Carboni to have a residency here in October 2018.
The removal of time pressures, combined with the complete understanding and support of Carboni as the vineyard and winery proprietor, was immensely valuable to this research and for the quality and diversity of recordings I was able to make. Much of my research was conducted in the Montepulciano vineyard close to the residency house, which I could walk over to in minutes at any time of the day (or night) that I chose. It was also an amazing experience working within its ancient wine cellar in the town of Loreto Aprutino, historically, aesthetically, acoustically and in terms of the taste I was given of first wines being made here.
Risonanze di Vino was a residency project in which I explored the interactions between the sounds and wines, culture and senses in wine regions within Campania, Southern Italy. Curated by Leandro Pisano and supported by Nicola Carfora, this project sought to uncover resonances between the sensory and affective connections of local winegrowers – predominantly located in Sannio/Valle Caudina areas – and their wines and land. These responses helped guide the making of audio recordings in their vineyards and wineries, which were then used in the creation of site-specific soundscapes for one wine from each of the six producers visited.
Masseria Fratassi’s Pasquale Clemente up Mt Taburno
Cantine Giardino’s Daniela di Gruttola and her amphorae
Each soundscape aims to reflect the connections articulated by the maker of the selected wine through sounds of that wine’s sonic ‘terroir’, sourced from its place and production. The individual soundscape was also designed to harness perceptual correspondences between elements of the sounds recorded and the salient aroma and flavour characters of the individual wine, which is tasted as part of the work. The wine and sound combined offers a sensory transmission of the complex cultural and personal contexts of the wine’s making, heightened by the works’ crossmodal harmony.
The works from Risonanze di Vino were premiered on 7 October, 2018 at Cristina Park Hotel, Montesarchio, Italy. The wines used were:
Masseria Parisi Resolje Moscato Spumante de Baselice NV
Masseria Fratassi SVG920 2017
Vallissasoli 33/33/33 2013
Fontanavecchia Libero Taburno Falaghina 2007
Cantina Giardino Bianco 2017
Cantine Tora “Spartiviento” Aglianico del Taburno Riserva 2011
Further and more detailed documentation may well be forthcoming!
My audio-olfactory work, La Chevelure is part of reminiSCENT, an ambitious olfactory art exhibition curated by Megan Fizell at Sydney’s May Space, which surveys contemporary artists initiating multisensory experiences through olfactory encounters. As well as the 2016 audio-olfactory installation, this iteration includes La Chevelure Boîte à Souvenirs, a vintage hand-carved box containing a copy of the sound work, the scent and the Charles Baudelaire poem, La Chevelure.
“…mon âme peut boire / À grands flots le parfum, le son et la couleur” – Baudelaire, La Chevelure.
La Chevelure is an exploratory, immersive audio-olfactory installation that charts a sensuous journey through the waves of ‘synesthetic symbolism’ in the Charles Baudelaire poem of the same name. In his poem from the mid-1800s, Baudelaire created a dense tangle of multisensory imagery to evoke the poem’s conceptual and emotional content using the central symbol of a lover’s head of hair. This wafts layers of exotic sensory symbolism through the poem’s inner and external worlds, much of which is evoked through scents and sounds. In this contemporary interpretation, the poem’s mental imagery, symbolism and conceptual elements are transposed to actual sounds and scents, and current understandings of crossmodal correspondences – the universal tendency of a sensory feature in one modality to be matched with one from another sensory modality – are applied and explored. Sensory interactions are harnessed to elicit states of mind, creating subconscious connections that provoke powerful conscious perceptual experiences.