All Five Senses
« Quand j’aime, J’aime avec tous mes sens »...
« When. I love, I love with all my senses » is one of the sexiest things I’ve ever heard a man say. I used to savor lazy evenings watching him prep dinner for us... the chop-chop-chop of knife to wood, the sizzle of olive oil welcoming an array of colourful vegetables, spices filling the air with the perfume of travel and adventure, and his hands... kneading the dough, stirring the pot, bringing me a spoon of this and that to taste, a glass of deep red wine to enjoy while he went about creating his everyday feast ... Spending time with someone who loves and lives “with all senses” changed me profoundly by giving me a recipe for feeling good. I was grateful to come across his photo while packing. I let myself pull up that memory and “feel” it vividly. I remembered how alive I felt then, in contrast to how I’ve been feeling lately. I’ve been numbed by the boundaries of my bubble, the blandness of my food choices. I’ve been feeling oppressed by the heat, newspaper headlines and the constant hum of appliances. But most of all, I’ve been numbed by the hours spent in front of a screen. On one hand, there’s the dopamine jolt of clicks and posts, and TikTok videos, Insta reels, Marketplace deals... One the other hand, all the senses are starved for real stimulation, unfiltered. Could a return to “feeling alive” be as simple as “living with all of my senses”? Looking at those photos, I realized that everything that had felt so rich and textured was commonplace and within my reach. I didn’t need to escape to an Omani souk or in Provence’s lavender hills to reignite my senses. It was as simple as a few drops of essential oil, a perfectly ripe grapefruit in the morning... and heading out to my first live music show (as a fan, not for work).
I could hear every instrument, the emotion too as the singers shared their joy of being with us. I relaxed into the hum of whispered conversations - folk who hadn’t seen each other in a while. I took strength from a real hug from one of my best friends – we text every day but haven’t seen each other in ages. The evening was magical! For a couple of hours, the sense of impending doom gave way to delight. I have taken to late-night walks, when the heat drops and the humidity carries the sweet scent of old brush, autumn leaves, when I can taste the lingering smoke of the day. I am now revisiting my day in earnest to reintegrate texture, colour, perfume, spice, and melody... I listen to Carsie Blanton's beautifully layered music. She once shared a song-writing tip about including all five senses in the lyrics as a way of anchoring a song. It works.
Back to Live Music, Being Alive...
I’ve got to thinking about shows and how artists might be able to satisfy the senses-starved audiences with a fully sensorial experience...Sound is a given – and worth amplifying (pun fully intended, haha!) How about the visual impact of your show? Are you paying mind to what the audience sees when you’re on stage? What are your clothes communicating? How are you using the stage? Are you highlighting solo moments with space? Where are you looking? How is the group interaction? Audiences will be watching and processing your choices... Smell and taste will depend on the venue and can be highlighted accordingly. Inviting the audience to pay attention to the smell of autumn leaves at a harvest festival awakens that sense. Complimenting the kitchen on the house speciality at a restaurant or inviting patrons to lift a glass to toast the moment are all ways of engaging their sense. As for hugs, well, we’re not there yet... But clapping is most definitely allowed! Invite the audience to clap along, stomp along and where permitted, dance along! Many will not have moved in a long time, and it may just take a bit of nudging to get them back in their bodies, attuned to the sound. After an extended break, audiences are going to be more attentive than ever to the full experience of a live show. When you’re focused on them, with a compelling show that connects them through all senses, you help them shake out the numbness and feel their hearts beating again. Artists have many roles, and one is reminding us that we’ve still got a lot of living and loving to do, best enjoyed in person, with all our senses!
I welcome your reactions and ideas. And of course, I look forward to seeing you at the Hang tomorrow.