Music doesn’t have to be a uni-dimensional experience. While we may primarily think of music as an activity focused on hearing, our other senses can also play a big part in the experience.
Sight: Sight is a pretty apparent one to incorporate into the musical experience. Think of acts like STOMP or Tap Dogs that have big lights and large visual displays. Musical theater and ballet are also physicalizations of musical experience that can be seen and enjoyed. In fact, if you turn off the sound but still watch an opera singer (for example) the pure emotions that can be seen in their face and bodies is so interesting.
Touch: Did you know that music is often included in the curriculum for deaf students? The part of the brain where we hear music can be “rewired” in deaf individuals to sense the vibrations in the airwaves. While there is some incredible talent that has emerged using touch in place of hearing, there are also some more subtle ways to feel your way through music on a daily basis! Think of the texture and pounding of hitting a drum, the smooth ivory keys of a piano, the vibrations of shaking a tambourine. While listening to music may mostly be auditory, making music is definitely a tactile experience!
Smell: I’ve always heard that smell is the strongest of our senses but I never really understood it’s power until the other day when a random person passed me on the street and I stopped in my tracks, turned and started scanning the crowd because a little whiff of a specific scent had me convinced that my grandmother was somewhere close. How interesting would it be to have that strong memory tie of a scent to music! Try burning incense or candles while listening to music and see if that same smell will later bring back melodic memories.
Taste: While music may not seem inherently edible, there are some great ways to incorporate the sense of taste. Think of the woody flavor of a clarinet reed or the feel of the cold steel of a harmonica. Not playing a wind instrument? Taste the ethnicity of the music you’re listening to by pairing food or drink from the country of origin. Make it a competition or game with your friends and discuss together which wine goes best with Mozart or Chopin. A great dinner company night would be to have a theme song of the evening and have one friend bring the appetizer, another a side dish, and a third person the dessert while you provide the protein. Not only would you get a lovely collaborative meal, you would also get the opportunity to discuss the various interpretations apparent in the culinary decisions!
In what other ways have you enhanced and added depth to your musical experience? What recommendations can you offer?