Graduate Research Colloquium: Prof. Charles Spence (University of Oxford, Department of Experimental Psychology)

Free to attend, register here.

There is growing interest in making musical performances more multisensory, more engaging, and more experiential for audiences. While such a notion can be linked back to Scriabin’s Poem of Fire, a musical composition that was to have been performed together with colourful lighted-accompaniment and even scent (though all this multisensory excitement was missing when the piece was last performed at St. Barnabus Church in Jericho, Oxford almost forty years ago). In this talk, I take a closer look at the crossmodal correspondences involving music, and highlight the range of multisensory outcomes (such as harmony, counterpoint, contrast, and emergence) that one might aspire to achieve by combining the senses based on the almost-synaesthetic connection between the senses. I will discuss a number of musical performances in which (classical) music has been combined with everything from fine wine to chocolate, and from cheese to fine fragrance. I hope to draw attention to some of the challenges and opportunities that such multisensory experiential design offers.

Professor Charles Spence is a world-famous experimental psychologist with a specialization in neuroscience-inspired multisensory design. He has worked with many of the world’s largest companies across the globe since establishing the Crossmodal Research Laboratory (CRL) at the Department of Experimental Psychology, Oxford University in 1997. Prof. Spence has published over 1,000 academic articles and edited or authored, 15 books including, in 2014, the Prose prize-winning “The perfect meal”, and the international bestseller “Gastrophysics: The new science of eating” (2017; Penguin Viking) – winner of the 2019 Le Grand Prix de la Culture Gastronomique from Académie Internationale de la Gastronomie. His latest book Sensehacking was published in 2021.

Much of Prof. Spence’s work focuses on the design of enhanced multisensory food and drink experiences, through collaborations with chefs, baristas, mixologists, chocolatiers, perfumiers, and the food and beverage, and flavour and fragrance industries. Prof. Spence has worked extensively in the world of multisensory experiential wine and coffee and has also worked extensively on the question of how technology will transform our dining/drinking experiences in the future.

About the series:
The Colloquia feature leading figures, as well as younger scholars, from across the world. They present their research in papers on all kinds of music-related topics. Graduate student Judith Valerie Engel organises the series. Presentations are followed by a discussion and drinks reception. If you would like more information, please email