If you have ever wondered if emotions have a sense, the answer would be no; in fact, emotions have all five senses, which permanently combine to assist our perception of the world around us and enhance our internal universe. Sight, smell, taste, touch and hearing; jump on board for a whistle stop tour to the heart of our sensory system.
Just a few hours old, yet already his five senses are alert: while his tiny hand explores the immense body that shields him from harm, his nose sniffs out vital nourishment, his ear welcomes his parents’ sweet lullaby and his eager palate drinks in sweet, creamy milk, while his tender sight offers an already impressive tableau of moving colours. Blissfully unaware, each of his five senses serve as a gateway to the knowledge and understanding he will acquire throughout his entire lifetime, springboards for personal memories and amplifiers of his most intimate emotions.
And since we were all once a tiny baby, discovering the magic of the world through our body, this special report celebrates the five senses in all their glory, delving deep into a specific aspect of each sense: expect aesthetic pleasure, archaic emotions and chemical reactions.
Emotion, whether aesthetic, religious, amorous or erotic, has always been inextricably linked to artistic creation. The artistic works of Caravaggio or Rembrandt exude emotion; as do the prehistoric depictions of bison in Lascaux cave. For artists make use of their science, talent and innovation to present their thoughts and/or emotions in visual form. From this perspective, impressionism is similar to other artistic movements. “But what is different is the main source of inspiration,” points out Marina Ferretti, Scientific Director of the Museum of Impressionism in Giverny. “For impressionists, it is no longer the universe of the past that is important, but instead the glory of modern life and nature. The effect of light, the play of light on water, moving clouds, water and wind, a crowd of people walking or even dancing… it is life itself that is of interest.”
If these paintings continue to move us so markedly, it is also by virtue of their depiction of the happier aspects of a relatable universe, portaying scenes of work and leisure.
At the end of the 19th century, emotion is expressed through new aesthetic codes: so as not to freeze the image of a constantly moving universe, colour is paramount to the work. The hand of the artist gains in prominence and the brushstroke evident on the canvas. The clear and vibrant colour hues play a vital part in creating the impression of outside space.
In addition, the artist focuses on spontaneity in his compositions, often preferring asymmetric and oblique compositions to classic proportions. “If some works are meditated and laboured, notably the latest work of Degas or Monet, the artist strives to preserve a natural, fluid and improvised appearance. If these paintings continue to move us so markedly, it is also because they portray the happier aspects of a relatable universe, depicting scenes of work and leisure. Monet, Degas, Pissarro and Cezanne spare us their pain and struggles, however real they may be, and prefer to engage our attention through the beauty of the everyday,” adds Marina Ferretti in conclusion.
July 6th is international kissing day, recognition indeed for something way more complex than it first may seem. Picture the scene: 34 muscles in action for a french kiss, 50 million bacteria shared (most of the time beneficial!) And almost as many implications.
“Beyond spontaneous external appearance, kissing is actually a cultural phenomenon,” clarifies David Le Breton, anthropologist and sociologist, and professor at the university of Strasbourg. “And contrary to what international kissing day would have us believe, it is light years from becoming a global phenomenon. You only have to watch a western movie in India for example, and the first lingering kiss is enough to send the entire cinema audience into fits of laughter, for whom kissing is considered insane. While from our point of view, while Russian dignitaries exchanging passionate kisses on the lips seems unusual at the very least, in reality it is an integral part of ritual welcome etiquette.”
Beyond spontaneous external appearance, kissing is actually a cultural phenomenon.
In fact, only a mother’s kiss tenderly placed on a new born seems relatable in every culture across the globe. And rightly so, since it is a highly effective way to detect a fever, and also to secrete vital attach hormones. As far as a lover’s kiss is concerned, this act of passion could date back as far as prehistoric times, when mothers chewed their food before transferring it into their children’s mouths.
Now that’s what i call romance!
By Olivier Cresp, Master Perfumer, Firmenisch, and founder of the Akro brand.
Why a career in perfume?
I was brought up in Grasse – the world capital of perfume – and my father and grandfather before him traded raw materials for fragrance houses. So I fell into the perfume industry at a very tender age. It’s really about handing down skills from generation to generation: I had barely learnt to walk when my father took us to smell citrus-laden hesperides, jasmine and mimosa.
In perfumery we use 3,000 synthetic molecules and 1,200 natural essences.
Is smell something we are born with or a sense that we can learn?
Both! In but a few rare exceptions, we are all capable of learning how to recognise certain smells relatively competently. To become a ‘nose’ however is a lengthy process, as in perfumery we use 3,000 synthetic molecules and 1,200 natural essences. After a career spanning 40 years, I know a quarter of these really well, to the extent that I can make formulae without having to smell the end result. But I do envy oenologists who manage to pick out a particular terroir just from the smell!
Are tastes in fragrance influenced by culture?
Yes, and this is in fact one of the major constraints of the role of the perfumer. When a top fragrance is launched on the world stage, we need to consider the major trending tastes so that each audience can find at least one aspect that resonates with their culture. In addition, fashions evolve: a few years ago, the heavy, power perfumes, like Angel by Thierry Mugler, one of my creations, was very much in vogue, while consumers are leaning now towards fresher, lighter styles.
Can wine serve as a source of inspiration for perfumers?
I was once inspired by a gin during the course of my career, and in the case of Akro, my own line of perfume, I created a fragrance based on whisky. But yes, absolutely, I am a huge fan of good wine, and I have to say that the bouquet of a wine is particularly difficult to reproduce, the only exception being champagne, where the notes are much easier to replicate, and which has already been a major source of inspiration.
An irresistible desire to dance, a lump in the back of the throat and hairs standing end; it’s crazy what sound can do to the human body! After sight, hearing comes a close second in provoking the most intense emotions. In fact, when we hear a piece of music, or a sound we enjoy, the noise triggers large numbers of neurotransmitters which release a chain of chemical reactions, particularly in the part of our brain associated with reward, motivation and pleasure, which in turn produces dopamines and natural opiates.
Scientific studies show that in times of woe, sad music is more effective in lifting our mood!
Ironically, it would seem that both sad and happy music have exactly the same effect and stimulate the same circuits in the brain. Which may explain why we often turn to arguably soul-destroying music. So Adele’s Someone Like You would have exactly the same effect as Pharrell William’s Happy! And quite possibly the former has an even greater effect according to the latest scientific research, which shows that in times of woe, sad music is more effective in lifting our mood! A word of warning, however, as this does not work for everyone.
In fact, 3-5% of the world population suffer from a condition known as musical anhedonia, the inability to experience an emotional response through music; an unusual condition which stems, quite logically, from the lack of connections between the parts of the brain controlling sound and those associated with praise and reward.
by Philippe Conticini, Pastry chef
How do you instil emotion into your creations?
For me, emotion is the most difficult element since it is so personal. I had to come to terms with my own emotions to be able to channel these feelings through my recipes. It’s like pastry psychotherapy! At the same time, I also had to compile a repertoire of ingredients and explore each one’s contribution to the expression of my ideas. Today, all this ground work is complete and I can create cakes out of pure instinct, like a conversation I would strike up with the people who enjoy them.
Do you consider all five senses to be equal?
Taste is key for me. Everything is influenced by taste, even form and appearance. I created a Paris-Brest pastry a few years back, and initially wanted to use lighter butter cream, but it was the richness that carried all the flavour. I had to find a way of retaining the sensation of taste, which is how I came up with the idea of encapsulating a praline truffle in mousseline cream, which is now the recipe’s signature. I am not the type to be obsessed with visual appeal or texture. From a personal perspective, it’s all about harmony. Harmony is ubiquitous and unquestionable, a bit like maths!
Are the workshops you host a way to convey your emotions?
I see it more as a way of passing on techniques, which in turn serve as a springboard for the imagination. I enjoy demonstrating recipes and I positively encourage beginners to adapt them and inject their own emotions. Pastry is essentially all about sharing!
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