Music: humankind's first communication tool

One of my favorite authors on the topic of sound both as it relates to business and to our experience as humans in daily life is Julian Treasure, whose TED talks on conscious listening and how sound affects us have been watched many millions of times.

In his monumental book "Sound Business," written a decade ago, Treasure notes that "of all the types of sounds, music is the one we find most fascinating" (p. 84). He goes even further in this line of thinking by bringing up the research of archeologist Stephen Mithen, who asserts in The Singing Neanderthals that "music came before language." For Mithen, Treasure writes, "the advent of language sidelined music from its original role as our core communication vehicle. Language is processed by different areas of the brain, and these have become dominant as we have concentrated exclusively on lingual communication, leaving music as a powerful tool that we now use without really understanding" (p. 85 - emphasis mine).

How totally and completely fascinating is this? If we take this at face value, prior to being something to entertain us, music was our fundamental tool of communication! How – or why – then do we then accept that it can and/or should be pushed to the background of our sensory experience, most especially in those moments of life on which we spend many thousands of dollars and many hours of planning? Doesn't doing so go against our natural sensory tendencies, tendencies that are as old as our very species?

This is certainly not to say that at every moment in life should we have music available or even that when there is music in a room or for an occasion that it must be our central focus. It is to say, however, that we must regift to music the power of our attention and award it the possibility of truly moving us and communicating to, with, and through us.

We at Five Senses Tastings hope that this comes through in our work and that our events over this Valentine's Day weekend were more meaningful as a result. We hope that those who heard and experienced our music tastings left with an expanded appreciation of the power of music – of sound – to influence our perception of our other senses, and generally to heighten our sensory experiences of a given moment in time.

Who says sacred music is made for the soul only?

Certainly not us!

Bach's duet n°2: "Wir eilen mit schwachen, doch emsigen Schritten" from his Cantata "Jesu, der du meine Seele" BWV78 exemplifies what is so distinctive about Bach's music: it speaks directly, and as strongly, to one's soul and one’s body. The way Bach combines and weaves together the soprano and the alto voices forms an incredibly spiritual sonority that is at the same time very sensual, taking into account that no soul lives outside a body. The texture is at once light and airy and velvety, a sound one can almost touch.

A sound that tastes like a great vintage German Riesling from a classic producer such as Dönnhoff in the Nahe region, or a sublime dessert wine from Alsace, like Domaine Weinbach’s Cuvée St. Catherine or Cuvée St. Laurence, both late harvest wines made from Riesling and Gewürtztraminer, respectfully.  With their incredible vein of acidity and minerality, both wines take your palate on a journey that is at once complex and inviting, challenging but always deeply satisfying - and sometimes even life-changing.

Many people, religious or not, have likened experiences with great German and Alsatian wines to that of a spiritual awakening. In the Bach duet, the repetition of the musical motive and the variations around it speak to this spiritualism by materializing the "faltering yet eager steps" with which we undertake our life’s journey. The rising intertwining figure gives the impression of a very human striving, towards a very spiritual goal. And as the aria unfolds, it becomes increasingly clear that the spiritual goal Bach devised in his music is in fact this step-by-step journey itself.

Rutherford on New Year's Eve!

Not surprisingly, ever since I’ve started spending more time in California, I’ve of course started drinking more California wines.  Californians are a bit snooty about their wine and according to a this article published by wine app, Vivino, Californians overwhelmingly drink their own wines above all others, including varietals such as Malbec, a varietal that is typically attributed to Argentina as one of their best exports.  

I've always wanted to become more acquainted with French wines and decided to pick one up for New Year’s Eve.  However, while coming home late that night, there weren’t too many stores still open in my neighborhood, and so I came home with the Rutherford Hill Barrel Select Napa Valley Red from 2011. Made from 69% Merlot, 10% Syrah, 7% Petit Verdot, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 7% Malbec, this wine was a real treat.  Bordeaux style wines thrive in the Napa Valley where warm days and cool nights are the norm, and this one certainly didn't disappoint!

The Cabernet Sauvignon grape doesn’t figure as much in this bottle, though it is the dominant (and most consumed) grape in California and the addition of the Merlot deepens and softens the flavors.  The wine is round and luscious, and the few sips we had leftover the next day were just as delicious!