Tatcha 5 Senses Indigo
Oct 2, 2021
The Indigo Plant (or ‘Indigofera Tinctoria’) has been valued by civilisations for hundreds, if not thousands of years. From the Ancient Greeks, to the Impressionist Painters, the leaves of this notable bean plant have long been used for medicinal and decorative purposes, with indigo dye being used in everything from a humble pair of Levi jeans, all the way to Johannes Vermeer’s masterpiece, ‘Girl With The Pearl Earring’. But what does this plant sound like? The idea of a plant having a sound at all is perhaps a strange one, but using cutting edge technology and some open minded creative thinking, the sound of the Indigo plant comes to life in Tatcha’s newly released ‘Five Senses Ritual’, with original music from Syn. Tatcha’s five senses calming ritual seeks to give its consumers respite from the stresses of modern life, by engaging sight, smell, touch, taste and sound. With the help of ‘PlantWave’ technology - a small device that measures slight electrical variations in organic matter through two electrodes placed on the leaves - the Syn team travelled south to Tokushima in Shikoku to record the Indigo Plant's debut performance on the global stage.
As Indigo is a key ingredient to Tatcha’s ‘Five Senses Ritual’, the concept was to bring the sound of these special plants to life and weave them into an original piece of music to accompany the night-time ritual. Tatcha is an American-founded brand, using Japanese ingredients and with a strong Japanese essence, so we looked to Shikoku - one of Japan’s five main Islands - to record the sound of these plants. Led by Music Director, Alan Mawdsley, the Syn team travelled from Tokyo to an Indigo Farm nestled in the leafy hills of Tokushima, Shikoku, to record the sound. Alan describes the process, “attached to the Indigo plant we have sensors, the sensors capture the electrical signal from the leaves of the plant, which then gets translated into MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) data”.
Moving north on this musical journey, the sounds captured from these plants were sent to Lake Towada in Akita (Northern Japan), where Nick Wood - Syn’s CEO and Creative Director - began to explore how they would sound in his original composition to accompany the five sense ritual. Given the holistic and sensory experience that the five senses ritual offers, the soundscape plays an integral part both to add authenticity to the ingredients, but also to contribute to a state of pure relaxation for the consumer. Working from his lake-side studio, overlooking Lake Towada, Nick Wood incorporated these sounds into his original score, combining them with sonic textures, such as the sound of the forest, to give a highly relaxing sound to this score. In his words, ‘it’s very different to how I would usually compose a piece. I’m adding some really beautiful Bell-like, Magical sounds”
From the field-recording in Shikoku to Nick Wood’s composition at Lake Towada, with an additional stop-off in central Tokyo for a mixing session in both stereo and Dolby Atmos, a finished soundscape for the Tatcha five sense ritual was shared with Tatcha. The piece was well received by the team, but music is a highly subjective phenomenon, how can one ever truly express how it feels to listen to a piece of calming, relaxing music? This is where neuroscience and music meet - an area increasingly utilised by Syn on projects ranging from TV Commercials to Sonic Branding, and everything in-between. Tatcha CEO, Vicky Tsai, travelled to Austin, Texas, to have her brain scanned using EEG (Electroencephalogram) technology. Whilst listening to the music and engaging with the five senses ritual, Vicky’s EEG scan measured electrical signals produced when brain cells send messages to each-other, thereby producing data that can show a neuroscience-informed analysis of the experience. The results of this scan were impressive, showing that - over a 16-minute session - participants (including Vicky Tsai) demonstrated a 21% increase in relaxation and a -17% reduction in stress levels. The findings of this study reaffirm our belief that music and sound can have a very tangible on the listener, as Nick Wood comments, “This project shows music’s neurological effect on the listener. It’s the first time that we’ve been able to collaborate on a project where research and scientific data demonstrate what we’ve felt emotionally”
From microscopic variations in electrical activity produced by Indigo Plants in Japan, to neuro-scientific research on Tatcha CEO’s brain in Texas, this project has taken us on a journey around the world, and perhaps more importantly, across the realms of possibility. When we press a key on a piano, we know how it will sound - when we pluck a string on a guitar, we know how it will sound. But when we record the sound of a plant, and engineer it to form part of an original composition, the possibilities are endless. Science shows us that the sounds of nature - such as wind, waves and forest - help put the brain in a state of relaxation, and being guided by science, we’ve had the opportunity to create music that will have a physiological effect on the relaxation state of the consumer.
This project has been a fascinating exploration of the possibilities of sound, and how we can attribute signature sounds to organic matter in a way never previously explored. Collaborating with Tatcha and PlantWave technology, this project has inspired us to give a voice to plants, materials and matter in more and more innovative ways, and see how music and sound can be used to create positive impact to people and environments alike. In the words of Nick Wood, “It’s been an absolute honour and privilege to be working on Tatcha’s five sense ritual here in Lake Towada”.