Cena concertante alla maniera di Vivaldi: Considering the Restaurant as a Musical Interface

Ben Houge

In recent years, I have been conducting research into the links between music and gastronomy by collaborating with chefs to develop multisensory dining experiences that I call “food operas.” These events incorporate real-time music techniques adapted from the world of video game development to respond to the unpredictable events and timings of the dining room.
This paper details an event I developed in collaboration with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, chef David Verdo, and designer Jutta Friedrichs that took place on January 5 and 7, 2017. Cena concertante alla maniera di Vivaldi was a four-course meal with real-time musical accompaniment deployed from a seventy-channel speaker array comprised of sixty-four iPads and six near field studio monitors, all coordinated via the same network. The iPads were positioned in custom-built acoustic resonators placed at each seat in the restaurant, presenting a unique audio channel to each diner, synchronized to the rhythms of each diner’s meal and sited as close as possible to the food. The music was based on Vivaldi’s Piccolo Concerto in C Major, RV 443, drawing from archival BSO performances, with the objective of enhancing diners’ appreciation of a live performance of the work on a concert following the meal. The menu was based on the music, drawing on research in the field of crossmodal psychology that identifies links between the senses of taste and hearing.
This paper discusses the background of the project, its musical organization, the infrastructure and control techniques required to execute it, and relevant research in the field of crossmodal psychology, concluding with a discussion of areas for future work.

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