Sonic Wonderland

An audio-gustatory feast using music to enhance and modify food's flavour profile - London, May 2015

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SONIC WONDERLAND - London, May 2015

To showcase Sony’s new Multi Room technology, Bompas & Parr created a multi-roomed Sonic Wonderland experience. In a multi-sensory world our senses work collectively to make sense of the environment around us: across a series of rooms, with different experiments and culinary offerings, this event explored the implicit relationship between what we eat and what we hear, channeling the power of audio to alter and amplify taste. The evening’s sounds were created by a ‘sonic sommelier’: composer and sound designer Dom James.

In the Audio Antechamber guests drank Sonic-Aged Old Fashioneds and Martinis vibrationally enhanced with a 440hz tuning fork; canapés were designed to elicit different masticatory sound effects in the mouth; guests were free to experiment at the Sonic Signature station and create ‘music’ in the Sonic Garden, an organic musical interface where the leaves become capacitive touch sensors; and a bath tub was transformed into a visualisation of sound waves with the generation of ideal frequencies under the water.

Next, a Sonic Cleanse, held in complete darkness, prepared guests for the main dining experience. Guests’ sense of sound was cleansed by listening to a sampled selection of sounds running the full range of human hearing to stimulate the tightening and relaxation of the timpanic muscles in the ears that govern hearing sensitivity; a shot of dicarboxylic acid prepared palates for the dinner to follow.

The choreographed banquet took guests through different sounds and colours designed to bring out optimum flavour in the food. Sounds were based on research into auditory and gustatory stimuli and flavours connected to particular musical pitches, performance qualities and instrument groupings. The project put to the test experimental psychologist Charles Spence’s theory that a dish can be made up to 10% sweeter or 10% more bitter if accompanied by the right music. A transitional, neutral-tasting central course – The Oral Metamorphosis – showcased the extent to which an audio accompaniment can change flavour. And as a Goat’s Cheesecake dessert was consumed, guests were exposed to very low frequency and then high frequency audio sounds, changing the same dish from bitter to sweet.

Photography by Mikael Buck.