Composer Maxime Goulet had a delicious idea – to write a musical suite about chocolate, seguing the sounds through signatures that correspond with various types of chocolate.
Then he had an even better idea – to let audiences eat those chocolates while listening to the music.
“Symphonic Chocolates” is the Canadian composer’s resulting work, an all-encompassing, multisensory experience that has challenged the idea of a traditional classical music concerts – and maybe even how to eat chocolate. On Sunday, four musicians – violinists Melissa Williams and Rachel Shepard, violist Lorento Golofeev and cellist Annamarie Reader – will perform the string quartet version of the Goulet’s suite at the Midtown Arts and Theater Center Houston as part of “Musical Parfait,” the latest concert in the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra’s “Unchambered” series.
“What I found is that when you eat, almost all the senses are involved,” Goulet said.
A chocolatier must consider the taste, appearance, smell and texture or touch, but while biting into chocolate may emit a satisfyingly crisp snap, the sound is not unique to any particular flavor.
“By adding the soundtrack to it, it makes it very complete,” Goulet said. “All the senses are involved, so it’s a very immersive experience.”
In the middle movements, a dissonance in the music reflects the bitterness of dark chocolate, inciting visions of a seductive tango. The musicians then create an auditory sensation of the icy coldness of mint chocolate hitting the tongue – powerful enough to cause a chill to run up one’s spine. The sound, which is high-pitched and metallic, is produced when violinists use effects like a tremolo, a rapid back and forth motion of the bow, Goulet said.
The interaction between sound and taste, Goulet believes, influences perception, and now, he has scientific reasoning to support his work. Charles Spence, a professor of experimental psychology at the University of Oxford, is a pioneer in gastrophysics, which examines influences behind eating habits. Spence led a study, published in the international research journal “Appetite,” in which 116 participants perceived the creaminess of two unknowingly identical chocolates while listening to two opposing soundtracks, and the music proved to change the perception of the chocolate’s consistency.
The experiment was similar to the concept of Goulet’s tasting concert in many ways, and next summer, Spence and Goulet will both share their work at the International Multisensory Research Forum in Toronto.
The Sunday concert marks Goulet’s first time working with ROCO, but it won’t be the last. He is composing a piano concerto inspired by a chess game for next season’s opening concert.
“I found it was like a perfect match,” he said of ROCO’s openess to the nontraditional. “If we have a good idea, we’ll find a way to make it happen.”
Source: Exploring the sound of taste