By Lee Hyo-won
Sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. These five senses encompass the human experience, enabling us to perceive the world around us and communicate with others. In recent years, there has been a visible number of ``crossovers'' of the senses ― in other words, products that enable us to ``hear'' books, ``touch'' sounds and ``see'' scents.
In 1997, Nintendo introduced vibrating controllers, upgrading the joy of playing video games. More recently, international cell-phone maker Nokia joined hands with Immergion so that users can literally feel ― or touch ― ring tones, alarms, etc. The VibeTonz System allows a user using a cell phone to feel a rapid heartbeat when sending an SMS to a loved one. In Korea, LG Electronics and SK Telecom among others have incorporated this system.
Touch screen phones are all the rage these days, but had the inconvenience of being non-sensitive. Samsung's phone SCH-W559 provides a solution with the illusion of pressing a button, when it's in fact just touching the screen.
The Sound of Touch, introduced last year in the United States, is an instrument for real-time capture and sensitive physical stimulation of sound samples using digital convolutions. For example, you record any sound on a hand-held wand, which will play back the recording by brushing, scraping, striking or making any physical contact with objects.
In the United States, audio books take up more than 10 percent of the book market, increasingly becoming a mainstream item. At www.audible.com, America's largest online audio bookstore, Hollywood stars read best sellers. You can hear Paulo Coelho's ``The Alchemist'' told by Jeremy Irons while Jodie Foster reads Carl Sagan's ``Contact,'' which inspired the big movie she starred in. Listening readers can also download audio books on their iPods.
In Korea, www.audien.com offers narrations of books, TV dramas, news, interviews and more. The portal site opened in 2007 and now has over 500,000 members. Yongin Digital Library (dlib.yonginlib.or.kr) offers a 24-hour online audio book-reading service for the visually impaired.
In addition to audio books that enables the visually impaired the pleasure of reading, recently, AD Information & Communications introduced VOICEYE. It's a portable scan-and-hear device that converts information in any printed material to human-like speech.
Text data is stored in a matrix type symbol or 2D barcode (often found at the bottom of official documents here such as birth registration forms) and a decoder converts the information into human-like speech via a scanning device. A tiny 1.5-centimeter squared matrix can hold two A4 pages worth of text.
Lately, there have been increased efforts to provide cinematic experiences for the visually impaired. Last summer, Siloam Welfare Center for the Visually Impaired produced 12 narrated movies, and the DVDs were distributed to welfare centers across the country. More recently, ``If You Were Me: Anima Version 2,'' an animation film about human rights, invited moviegoers to enjoy the film with narrations by celebrities like pop singer Ha Ri-soo.
Art for Eyes, Ears, Nose
In the fine arts scene, there have been a rising number of eye (ear and nose)-catching events. One example is the film ``Perfume: The Story of a Murderer,'' an audiovisual expression of perfume fragrances based on the novel by Patrick Suskind.
Last fall, the Coreana Art Museum in Seoul held ``Shall We Smell,'' an exhibition displaying contemporary artwork visually and aurally depicting smells. Each exhibition space also featured distinct aromas ― the scent of baby milk, a whiff of rainy summer evening among others.
Others suppress the senses for an enlightening experience. Launched in Germany and traveling around the world, ``Dialogue in the Dark'' offers the public a world without sight. It recreates the everyday life of the visually impaired: in the pitch darkness, participants have only a guiding voice and walking stick to ride buses and buy drinks among other activities.
Boundaries between movies, concerts and art exhibitions are becoming increasingly non-existent, and art consumers can enjoy more than one of these at once.
Live classical music and the arts make a fine pair onstage. In March, Carl Davis brought his feted Charlie Chaplin Film Festival to Korea, making live orchestral music to accompany silent films.
As part of the Seoul Arts Center's April Orchestra Festival, the Gyeonggi Philharmonic played Rachmaninov's Second Symphony while French artist Gerard Economos drew on a giant canvas set up onstage.
Aug. 8-9 at the Sejong Cener for the Performing Arts, concertgoers and film buffs can see an animated version of Prokofiev's tale ``Peter and the Wolf'' with live music by the Seoul Metropolitan Youth Orchestra. Call (02) 399-1114.
Music Makes Movies
A great score is often integral to movies, and recently in Korea, music defined the movie. So-called ``music movies'' ― films that aren't musicals but feature music in the heart of its storytelling ― emerged as a new genre.
Small budget works like ``Once'' and ``August Rush'' were unexpected box office smashes ― even Richard Lewis, the producer of the latter film, expressed surprise about its success here in a previous Korea Times interview. Movies about musicians like ``Copying Beethoven,'' ``Callas Forever'' (about famed soprano Maria Callas) and ``Untold Secret'' followed suite, along with the currently showing ``Vitus.'' On the small screen, the classical musician story ``Nodame Cantabille,'' a Japanese manga (comic)-turned- TV drama, was a sensation.
In response, multiplex theater CGV hosted a small music film festival at one of its major chains in Seoul, re-showing hit films like ``Once.'' Fans wanting for more movies with great music should tune into the Jecheon International Music & Film Festival, to take place August 14-19 in North Chungcheong Province. Visit www.jimff.or.kr.
The crossover of the senses for the sake of expression is no recent phenomenon. A scientific attempt to express sound visually can be seen in hangeul, the Korean alphabet.
Created in the 15th century under the commission of King Sejong (1397-1450), hangeul's basic consonant symbols are schematic drawings of the human speech organs in the process of articulating certain sounds, according to ``Fifty Wonders of Korea'' (Korean Spirit & Culture Promotion Project).
Now, hangeul has become a fashion motif, appearing on clothing, cell phone covers, cigarette cases and more via the designs of top designer Lie Sang-bong.
This also evokes how typography ― the art, craft and techniques of type design ― has long become an important part of the art world.