Saturday, October 18, 2008


My previous post on the notion of community mediated by the senses got me thinking about what senses come into play in music/dance spaces. I would say that they prioritise, in this order, hearing (music), seeing (lights, clothes, people), and touch (dancing with physical contact with others or just feeling vibrations and the sensation of your feet on the floor).

But what about smell? This seems a bit of a neglected sense, it is rare for any effort to be made to create an olfactory ambience, although you occasionally come across incense in 'chill out' spaces and flowers at more glamorous events. The smell of clubs, parties and gigs varies according to the crowd but is usually an accidental cocktail of sweat, smoke (less so since the smoking ban), perfumes and, in some cases, poppers.

While I was pondering this I came across an article by Cathy Heffernan in the Guardian about a club in Finland for deaf dancers which puts a strong emphasis on scent: 'Deaf clubbers respond to the music's beat and vibrations, which is why DJs tend to use heavy bass. But vibrations do not relay tunes or lyrics, the aspects of music that trigger memories and emotions'. At SenCity in Jyväskylä, Finland, an effort is made to 'translate the emotions behind the music... An aroma jockey uses a fan to direct wisps of vapour from burning oils into the crowd, producing scents that will complement the music - citrus flavours are used for happy songs for example. Visual jockeys are responsible for co-ordinating signdancers, who interpret song lyrics on stage through a fusion of sign language and dance, with the music and light displays. And there's the vibrating floor: a raised platform with a transmitter attached to enhance the vibrations, just as speakers enhance music soundwaves'. Sounds interesting, check out this short film about the club:

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