Confession: if you’ve stumbled on this page looking for photos of rivers and oceans, you may be disappointed. This post is actually about an event called Rivers & Oceans, which took place last week at Rich Mix in Shoreditch, and was billed as an ‘immersive cultural experience’. Not sure what that means? Read on…
The event was a unique collaboration between three organisations: chamber collective Ensemble Perpetuo, the London Photo Festival, and BitterSuite, a London-based company who design sensory experiences set to classical music.
It’s not the sort of thing you’d usually find me at; much as I like all the individual components (music, photography, food) it probably wouldn’t have occurred to me to put them all together in this way. But my sister Caz had submitted one of the photos featured in the exhibition, so we went along as a family to see her work on display. Not quite sure what to expect, our uncertainty only grew when we arrived and were offered a wooden box and a small bottle of an interesting looking drink…
The concert featured eight pieces of music, all inspired by rivers and oceans, from composers including Samuel Barber, Sally Beamish, Joan Tower and Camille Saint-Saëns. While the musicians were performing, a huge projector screen showed a rolling slideshow of the featured photographs, curated by the London Photo Festival, with more pictures on display around the walls. Unlike most concerts – and against all my instincts as an audience member – we were encouraged to get up and wander about while the musicians were playing, to look at the photos and experience the music from different perspectives.
So far, pretty normal. But you’re probably wondering where the wooden box and bottle of drink come in, so I should explain. Some of the pieces of music were numbered in the programme, as were the bottle and the canapés inside the box, and each taste had been designed to accompany that particular piece of music.
Now, I’ll be honest. I didn’t totally get this bit – although when BitterSuite’s chef, Adam Thomason, came out at the beginning of the second half to explain, it made a bit more sense. Essentially, I think, it’s all about the combination of flavours, and how it makes you feel – one piece of music, for example, was quite dark, so it was accompanied by a rye bread that was almost bitter in taste, with some conflicting flavours on top designed to make the taster feel slightly uncomfortable. And then there was the small egg cup of caramelised parsnip and white chocolate soup, which was quite warming and soothing (actually, that one was quite tasty). The flavours may not have been everyone’s cup of tea, and we did have to be a bit brave sometimes to taste things with no idea what they were – but that was all part of the fun.
The sensory experience also included scents to accompany one piece of music, and this bit I did get (once we’d all stopped sneezing), because the combination of smells really did make me think of the sea, and it was easy to imagine myself on the coast somewhere.
Overall, it was a fascinating evening, with beautiful music and photos – and a unique twist in the accompanying tastes and smells. And of course it was great to see my sister’s photo on display. (That’s it in the picture below. If you’d like to see more of Caz’s photography, check out her blog, Finding a Focus. She’s really very good.)
The final event in Ensemble Perpetuo’s series of immersive events, Heavenly Sights, is in November at the Forge, Camden, and will be inspired by space, flight and motion.