Exploring the Senses Essay

Section 1: Artwork and Sight (20)
Section 2: Music and Hearing (20)
Section 3: Scents and Smell (20)
Section 4: Food and Taste OR Environment and Touch (choose one) (20)
Section 5: Synthesis and Application (20)

Please remember that you will be graded on both the depth and thoughtfulness of your observations as well as on the quality of your writing. Points will be deducted for incomplete answers and careless writing.

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These activities are adapted from Michael Gelb’s The How To Think Like Leonardo da Vinci Workbook, 1999.

Section 1: Artwork and Sight

Da Vinci sought to achieve objectivity in his work by viewing it from at least three different perspectives. Your task for this first section is to identify a painting or sculpture of your choosing and evaluate it from three different vantage points.

Please include a copy of the artwork with your assignment. If it is a work of art that can be located on the internet, paste a copy of it in the assignment document. If it is a piece that you have in a book or at home, be sure to either scan it or take a picture to include with your assignment.
The response for this part should include three paragraphs of a minimum of 100-words each (a total of 300-words minimum) documenting your impressions of the art when considering it from different perspectives.
For the first paragraph, start with your own first impression or interpretation of the art.
In the second paragraph, interpret the piece of art from another (single) perspective. Some possible perspectives to consider: How would my views of this art change if I lived in a different country or came from another religious, racial, economic, or class background?*
Write a third paragraph interpreting the artwork from another (single) new perspective. Some other perspectives to consider: How would I interpret it differently if I were twenty years younger or older or was a member of the opposite gender?*

*For the second and third paragraphs of this section, you can choose any perspective you want; you don’t have to use the ideas suggested above. I just want to see you write about the artwork from three distinct perspectives.

Section 2: Music and Hearing

Good music is the most powerful tool for cultivating appreciation of sound and the subtleties of hearing. Da Vinci referred to the art of music as “the shaping of the invisible.” What’s your favorite category of music? Classical? Gospel? Raga? Reggae? Jazz? Country? Rock?

Compile a list of your top 5 composers and/or artists and list them at the top of this section.
Then, choose two pieces from the composers/artists on your list (for a total of 2, not 10) and describe the songs in terms of the emotions they create. It might help to listen to the songs as you write your impressions. What feelings do they evoke? If the songs contain lyrics, go beyond restating their meaning.
Elaborate on the role of the instruments or voice(s) in your discussion. Each discussion should be a minimum of 150-words (for a total of 300-words minimum).

Section 3: Scent and Smell

Every day we are confronted with an assortment of smells; however, most people have a very limited vocabulary for describing aromatic experiences. Aim to increase your appreciation for smell by expanding your olfactory vocabulary. Perfumers categorize smells as floral (roses), minty (peppermint), musky (musk), ethereal (pears), resinous (camphor), foul (rotten eggs) and acrid (vinegar).

Choose THREE different aromas that affect your emotions, and use some of these terms above or make up your own descriptors to describe these scents. Be detailed and specific! It might help to locate these scents when completing this portion of the assignment. How do these smells affect your moods? Your memory? Each scent should be discussed in a minimum of 100-words each for a minimum 300-word total.

Section 4: Food and Taste OR Environment and Touch

For this section, you have the option either to explore taste or touch. Please choose ONE of the following scenarios and write a 300-word minimum discussion:

Option 1: Obtain three different kinds of the same food or drink, such as chocolate (i.e. dark, milk and semisweet), apples (i.e. gala, granny smith and fuji) or cola (i.e. Pepsi, Coca Cola and RC). These are just examples to get you thinking. Other possibilities can be different brands of the same type of cereal, ice cream, nuts, etc. Once you have identified and obtained your samples, begin by looking carefully at each one and describing the differences you observe in color or clarity. Then smell each one for a few seconds. Describe the aromas. Next, taste each one in turn, holding a piece in your mouth and letting it sit on your tongue. Take a sip of water between tastes to clear your palate. In a 300-word minimum discussion, compare and contrast the aromas and tastes of the samples.

Option 2: Your brain receives information from more than 500,000 touch detectors and 200,000 temperature sensors. Yet, da Vinci argued that most people “touch without feeling” and the secret of sensitive “feeling” touch is an attitude of receptivity, learning to “listen” deeply with your hands and whole body. Imagine the quality of touch that da Vinci used in applying the layers of paint to create his angels and virgins. With the delicacy of da Vinci, touch the world around you as though you were experiencing each sensation for the first time. Describe your observations in a 300-word minimum discussion. What textures do you prefer? Which ones trigger memories?

Section 5: Synthesis and Application

The merging of the senses is a characteristic of both great artists and scientific geniuses. You can cultivate your synthetic awareness by describing one sense in terms of others. Choose ONE of the following scenarios and write a 300-word minimum discussion.

Option 1: Shaping the Invisible: Choose one of the songs you discussed above. If you were to sculpt this particular piece of music, what materials would you use? What shapes would you make? Which colors? How would the music smell? If you could bite the music, what would it taste like?

Option 2: Layering the Visible: Using the art piece that you chose in Section 1, describe how music could be used to define the piece. Then, engage your remaining sense: how could the piece also be defined in terms of smell, taste and texture?

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