Music and light. Music and movement. Music and staging. Music and visual image.
And now, music and nose.
About six years ago the Museum of Arts and Design in NYC was the first American museum to establish a department of olfactory arts. I learned of this development with a great deal of interest. From the time I was a little girl I was enraptured by scents. I loved wearing many different scents at once: bubble bath, lotion, perfume, talcum powder. I was known to experiment with combining the contents of various bottles on my mother’s dressing table. And one of my treasured Christmas gifts was a kit that allowed me to create my own scented lotions. With the announcement of the new Department of Olfactory Arts at MAD, my fascination with designed scents was rekindled and with it, the idea to create a body of music paired with aromas.
Scent and music surely have much in common. An aroma is a powerful memory trigger, just as music can be. The experience of aroma can affect our other perceptive senses, just as music can affect our experience of emotion, visual image and time. Much of my prior musical work arises from a fascination of how music can alter perception and it is this perception-bending intersection between these two artforms that I am keen to explore.
And so I dug in. I researched scent: I talked with neuroscientists, independent perfume designers, a world-class “nose.” I visted Osmotheque, an olfactory archive in France, as well as the Musee International de la Parfumerie in Grasse. I traveled to Los Angeles to meet with the founder of the Center for Art and Olfaction. I tried my hand at formulating my own perfume. I created and hosted a series of scent dinners, with designated scent courses, paired with music. And I read and read and sniffed and smelled.
This weekend at Studio Z, Zeitgeist performs their annual Eric Stokes Song Contest winners (which I am eager to hear), then performs a handful of my concert works, some arranged for Zeitgeist, others written expressly for them, including a brand new piece. The evening ends with music and scent. The audience will be invited to explore three rooms filled with scents and music. I'm not looking for the scent and music to copy or translate each other, but to compliment, much like pairing food and wine. And then, true to form, Zeitgeist will end the evening with food and wine. I hope you'll join us and partake of all the senses!
--Mary Ellen Childs, composer
Playing it Close to Home
Studio Z: 275 East Fourth Street, Suite 200, St. Paul
$15 / $10 students & seniors
With winning songs from the Eric Stokes Song Contest plus music by local composer Mary Ellen Childs, Zeitgeist's annual Playing it Close to Home concert celebrates the wealth of musical creativity found right here in our own backyard.
The program includes music by Eric Stokes Song Contest winners Michael Maiorana, Katy Vernon, and Seamus Hubbard Flynn, the world premiere of a new work composed by Mary Ellen Childs for Zeitgeist, plus several other works from Childs’ catalog, including excerpts from her opera Propeller, “visual percussion” pieces, and music for prepared piano. The concert will conclude with a multi-sensory sound installation created by Childs that invites audience members to explore three rooms filled with scents and music designed to pair with each aroma.