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MAY 31, 2008   

Sounds & smells

Walking to the West Side Market, when we got to Bridge Avenue we could hear rhythmic drumming coming from the direction of St. Ignatius High School. It's too early for marching band practice, and this didn't sound like John Phillips Sousa:

Group of students with drumsI really liked the primitive, repetitive patterns—as with bagpipes, there's something about that kind of music that appeals to me on a gut level.

When I got closer I could see a group of a dozen or so students at the edge of the football field, apparently practicing for something. I stood by the fence and watched/listened for a while, but try as I might, I couldn't imagine what sort of school function will use this kind of music.


At Edgewater Park the wind was gusting to 40 mph, making running a little harder than usual. People were flying kites and riding the four-wheel pedal "surreys" that they rent in the summer. A typical sunny weekend afternoon.

I thought of taking pictures of the kites or the surreys but realized what I really wanted to share with you I couldn't record: the smell of food cooking on the grills. As happens on sunny afternoons, I'd run by a picnic table with a group of people around it and catch a delicious scent of barbecue on the breeze. Some days I'm tempted to ask for a sample but I've so far wisely avoided trying this.

When you think about how important scent is to memory it seems odd that a scent recorder hasn't been created. We have audio recorders and image recorders (cameras), but nothing for smell. Or so I thought. When I got home I googled it and found that researchers at the Toyko Institute of Technology have invented an odor recorder. It's been a year since the original announcement, so I don't know whether we'll the seeing (smelling?) this anytime soon.

As an aside, I discovered that there already are scented Flash drives and scratch & sniff cards that re-create the musty paper smell to accompany e-books. Here's a list of smell-related devices. And of course smells, like everything else these days, will be commercialized, as explained in this article about smell trademarks.

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MAY 2008

APRIL 2008