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Arts in the News: The Perfume Concert, Tuning Instruments to the A-note and more

A Different Kind of Event: The Perfume Concert
Many people will go to a concert at some point in their lives–but scant few can say they’ve ever been to a “perfume concert.” In 1902, a poet and art critic named Sadakichi Hartmann organized the first such concert: a 16-minute long event meant to transport the audience to Japan through a series of smells. Aptly named “A Trip to Japan in Sixteen Minutes,” the perfume concert was a complete disaster–after only four minutes, jeers and complaints from the crowd abruptly brought the event to an end. Hartmann planned to use eight perfumes: “White Rose to suggest the departure from New York…Violet [to tell] of a sojourn on the Rhine, Almond of Southern Grance, Bergamot of Italy, Cinnamon of the Orient, Cedarwood of India and Carnation of the arrival in Japan.” Hartmann himself admitted the experiment “proved a complete failure,” but those at the Institute for Art and Olfaction see promise in his endeavor. Since 2014, the Institute has organized a series of tribute scent concerts in Hartmann’s honor, even offering a “Sadakichi Award for Experimental Work with Scent” at its annual rewards. Certainly “perfume concerts” aren’t for everyone–but as the arts world continues to expand and explore new frontiers, should the olfactory experience be discounted?

The History Behind Tuning Instruments to the A-note
Anyone who’s been to an orchestra concert knows the sound of the musicians tuning before the performance–the first violin sets a pitch which the other musicians subsequently match on their own instruments. That pitch–an A-note at 440 hertz–has been the standard tuning pitch for as long as many people can remember. But how did it become the go-to note for tuning purposes? A series of committees and meetings since 1885 have continued to reaffirm the 440 hertz standard: in 1885, it was decided at a conference in Austria; in 1939, at a meeting of the British Standards Institution; and in 1955, at a meeting of the International Organization for Standardization. Standardization–inside and outside the music world–is crucial to international organization. For centuries, there was no fixed frequency for the A-note; different tuning systems therefore had different A’s, exacerbated by the fact that summer and winter temperature extremes often made the pitch of organs and other instruments fluctuate. Ultimately, the need for better instrument and sound quality in larger and larger concert halls led to orchestras attempting a “brighter” sound, leading to a standard A of 425 hertz–a standard that was slightly adjusted over the next several decades to get us to the 440 hertz standard we know today. Fascinating to think that an A today was not the same A for music greats like Bach and Mozart!

Cirque du Soleil Buys Blue Man Group
Global performance enterprise Cirque du Soleil has bought American favorite Blue Man Group, wih plans to expand. Blue Man Group will be able to tap into Cirque du Soleil’s worldwide network, with access to theaters and marketers. Both Cirque and Blue Man reportedly specifically hope to expand into China, home to the fastest growing entertainment industry in the world. Such an expansion makes particular sense for Blue Man, as the non-verbal show does not face the normal language barrier preventing western shows from performing in Asia. Cirque currently boasts 18 live shows worldwide. The terms of the acquisition have not been made public, but the chief executive for Cirque, Daniel Lamarre, admitted the sale price was in the “tens of millions.” Blue Man Group was founded nearly 30 years ago in 1991 by Chris Wink, Phil Stanton, and Matt Goldman; in the past couple years, the three began considering selling: “We started to feel like we needed some help, plus we had some creative ideas that were beyond our own means,” explains Wink. Hopefully the new deal will allow more people around the globe to enjoy these entertaining, comical, and stunning shows!

Sweden to Host ‘Man-Free’ Music Festival
In the wake of a flood of reports of sexual assault at music festivals, Swedish comedian Emma Knyckare is organizing a “man-free” musical festival in her home country. After hearing about a number of sexual offenses at Sweden’s biggest music festival, Bravalla (which has since been cancelled for next year), Knyckare tweeted: “What do you think about putting together a really cool festival where only non-men are welcome?” Also a radio host, Knyckare is fighting back against claims that such a festival would be “unfair” by arguing: “Since it seems to be OK to discriminate against women all the time, maybe it’s OK to shut out men for three days? I would not exactly call it an abuse not to come to the festival.” Some bands and singers are taking their own stance against the unsafe festival conditions–for example, Mumford and Sons vowed not to perform at Bravalla again until safety was guaranteed for female concert-goers. Bravalla is not the only festival with such problems–two women reported being raped at last year’s Reading Festival in England. In May of this year, more than 25 music festivals in the UK turned off their websites for a day to show their solidarity as part of a zero-tolerance campaign against sexual assaults. Knyckare’s festival wouldn’t be the first to be “man-free”–just last year, Glastonbury introduced a women’s-only venue called The Sisterhood. The move to women’s-only spaces has many upset, but certainly all can agree that the first and foremost priority in these situations is the safety of all festival patrons. Hopefully events like Knyckare’s can ensure that fans can enjoy their favorite musical acts without fear for their safety and security.

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