Are you Sensual?

December 23, 2011 at 05:49 PM · I was thinking about the things I really go for just now. Like, I could really go for a good sfogliatelle. In case you don't know what that is, don't feel bad: I didn't either until I wandered across this lobster-tail of a pastry on one of my Italian market outings. I was thinking about what I look forward to most of all when I travel, and food destinations near the top of my list. I like it exotic. I like new and strong flavors (i.e. salmon roe, raw squid, fried gizzards, wild game). I also like the best of the best simple ingredients you can only get at a certain location (i.e. New Jersey bread).

But let's not just think about food. Are musicians more sensual? Are you strongly driven by your senses? Are you drawn to art, bright colors, or other visual stimulation (grand mountain scenery, caves, seven wonders, etc.)? Do you like to put your hands on things (rock climb, dough kneading, weed pulling)? Are you particularly over-sensitive? Are you a light sleeper? Do sounds get to you? (I awoke from fitful sleep this morning when I heard my father-in-law mention my name downstairs, through the floor of my room.) Or are you touch sensitive? Are you ticklish? Do clothes make you itch?

I think I was born with super-senses. I wondered if anyone else has ever felt the same way.

Replies (25)

December 23, 2011 at 06:58 PM · Some would say it is related to fibromyalgia, but I think it was a preexisting condition.

I know that fisherpersons do not like people touching their bait so I have to be very careful to keep my hands out of those plastic worms, so squishy and slimy.

As a kid I would zone out looking at the grains in the wood of our redwood fence. Dad would often use this opportunity to sneak up and give me a firm slap on the tokhus. To this day when I start to zone on something I get the impending sense that someone is going to walk up behind me.

Another kid thing was to fill my mouth with candy kisses (chocolate) and allow then to melt. I would then follow this with a glass of really cold water. The flavor would last a long time.

When I used to paint I used to love watching the colours start to blend the little wisp thinning and eventually blending.

I also have a thing for simple harmonic motion. I did a lot of experiments as a lab assistant in high school, hours staring at an oscilloscope. I still have a tendency to start those pen chains at the doctor’s office sliding in sine waves while waiting for the clerk to finish. And don’t let me stand near a car aerial if you want to talk to me,

The strangest incidents had to do with people, though this hasn’t happen in a while. I was very shy and every once in a while someone would reach over and touch me. I could feel the touch for hours.

Of course the strangest but best sensation is the feeling in my chest after I have held a baby. I’ve had three of my own, but I still love to hold the little ones.

So I guess I am a bit super-sensitive.

December 23, 2011 at 07:21 PM · I'm not sure if sensual is the right word for me, but all of my life I've doodled in empty pages or spaces on paper. It keeps me busy and my brain engaged the same way playing does.

December 23, 2011 at 07:21 PM · I am! I am! Emily, what a great topic! I was just thinking about something along the line yesterday. Oh boy, I’m always so touched by detailed texture of anything, visual, sound, taste, etc. Here are some of the examples:

Salmon roe, sea urchin, raw tuna belly are some of my favourite seafood, but I can never have enough of the simplest yet most amazing flavour of humble food such as rice, especially the newly harvested, steamy hot right out of cooking pot plain cooked rice. Another one is the sense of a soft piece of hot yam, crushed between the tongue and my palate (note that if you chew it, you won’t get this kind of taste), and let the unspeakable flavor unfold.

I like spicy food or strong color too, but the initial excitement these strong or powerful stimuli can be too much to my sense so I tend to get tired of them quickly. I think this explains why since as a child I have always been attracted to solo voices (vocal and instrumental)and I think because it gives more detailed texture that I can ‘taste’ than, say, the sound of a choir, which may just be too rich for my senses.

I’d say yes to all the following questions:

•Are you strongly driven by your senses? Yes, for instance, I’d notice a lot of symptoms when a slightest illness or injury occurs.

•Are you drawn to art, bright colors, or other visual stimulation? Yes, I start to draw as young as I can remember and I have to have colors on me and around me.

•Do you like to put your hands on things? Yes, I can’t stop touching things I see and I don’t feel right if I stop hand-making things for a few days.

•Are you particularly over-sensitive? Yes, I can be. I keep checking myself making sure that I’m not hypochondriac.

•Are you a light sleeper? Do sounds get to you? Yes I’m a light sleeper and I can overhear people mentioning my name but nothing else they say when I have my earphone on.

•I am also touch sensitive, ticklish and some clothes make me itch.

December 23, 2011 at 08:23 PM · OK, I'll bite.

Sensitive to sound, even though getting deaf. I have trouble going to real concerts, as opposed to listening to recorded music, because I get moved to tears.

Used to rock climb, but it gave me too much coarse strength in my hands, making delicate or rapid finger motions difficult. So I gave up music for a couple years, until I got the climbing out of my system.

Enjoy extremes of taste & spice, though I've limited that over time. I could subsist on bread and butter, if it was excellent bread and butter.

Tend toward pushing the envelope in various aspects of life, though that has moderated with the passage of time.

Aside from all that, I am overly fond of potato chips, and seek out new and exotic brands. Merely serves to illuminate my inner coarseness, alas.

December 23, 2011 at 08:39 PM · If you get more than one or two musicians together the conversation invariably goes to food, doesn't it?

Strong likes, strong dislikes too, at least for me. Green chile breakfast burrito, bring it on. Cilantro? Get that stuff off my plate. Same with visual stimuli- I got my degree in art. Years ago I was being seen at a physical therapy clinic where the posters on the walls were so bad they almost made me cry, being cooped up in a stuffy little room with them. Clothes, yep, it's more about the feel than the look. Soft warm cat in the lap on a cold night? Wonderful. Then there's my ability to study the pattern in the quilted maple on the back of my viola for ages while the conductor works with the flutes . . .

December 23, 2011 at 10:46 PM · Good post Emily!

I don't think we can generalize about musicians being more sensual/sensitive than the average person. Perhaps more sensitive to sounds though.

- Are you strongly driven by your senses?

Yes very much so!

- Are you drawn to art, bright colors, or other visual stimulation (grand mountain scenery, caves, seven wonders, etc.)?

Yes!

- Do you like to put your hands on things (rock climb, dough kneading, weed pulling)?

Yes, but not necessarily those things. ;)

- Are you particularly over-sensitive?

Yes, I would most definitely say so!

- Are you a light sleeper?

Absolutely. It is the bane of my existence. :(

I look at my exceptional hearing abilities as both a blessing and a curse. In a musical context it's wonderful. But for everything else in life it can be a nightmare.

- Do sounds get to you? (I awoke from fitful sleep this morning when I heard my father-in-law mention my name downstairs, through the floor of my room.)

Absolutely! I could write a book about all the sounds that get to me on a daily basis.

Let me pick one just randomly, to give you an idea of my sensitivity. The soft drink vending machines at stores (usually near the check out counters) drive me nuts!!

- Or are you touch sensitive? Are you ticklish? Do clothes make you itch?

Ticklish on my feet only. I'm allergic to wool, so that will definitely make me itch!

But any clothing with odd finishes, for example a shirt with an abrasive label on the collar, will drive me around the bend until I take a scissors to them!

December 23, 2011 at 10:50 PM · This is an interesting question; I'm looking forward to the responses.

I'm the least sensual person I know. I don't really like food, which is depressing, because every musician I know is obsessed with it. I'm drawn more to form than color; when I have any spare cash, I buy vintage art, and my collection is very heavy on colorless 1890s etchings. I knit a little bit, but not very well, and the yarn doesn't give me any kind of particular thrill. There are only a few people who I don't mind touching me. I identify as a biromantic asexual; I've never once been attracted to another person's body, only mind or personality. That said, I do appreciate beauty aesthetically, especially feminine beauty.

But I do love clothes and fashion; I'm always dressed well. And I love being out in nature. I've always slept poorly since I was a child, but that's the fibromyalgia. I'm ridiculously ticklish. I have to back up against a door to apply any kind of makeup. I can look at stringed instruments or photographs of stringed instruments for hours. I have a strong need to control the aesthetics of the space around me; bland walls nauseate me, and I never feel so alive as when I'm in a high-ceilinged old house.

So I have no idea. Some of my senses are dull; others shriek. I wonder which are due to chronic illness, which are due to an artistic temperament, and which, if any, have somehow been sublimated...

December 24, 2011 at 03:30 AM · Ha, Emily! I can't stand the thought of the dentist because the inside of my mouth is ticklish.

Yixi, I absolutely love your food descriptions!

And Mark, I understand your noise peeves. I have to explain to people that I have a "noise disorder" that prevents me from being able to concentrate on conversations when either the background music is too loud or there's more than one noise source at one time (tv and radio, youtube and music...) I go up to strangers at the coffee shop and offer them headphones when they listen to videos in public. I think it's rude. If I don't have headphones, I load a Yehudi Menuhin tutorial on my lap top and play a shifting exercise really loud.

December 24, 2011 at 04:47 AM · Emily Grossman asks,

" Are you particularly over-sensitive?"

Not at ALL! Why would you ASK me that???

December 24, 2011 at 03:08 PM · I have the most fabulous sheets on my bed, microfiber... When I peel back the comforter and my legs hit the sheets, the feeling of the softness and the warmth hit me like a ton of bricks. I have a set on the guest bed, but no one makes any comments about them, so I guess it is just me.

I have a hot tub, and love to go out on a cold night, I am immersed in the hot water, but I can see my breath and the bright stars shining down on me, I love the stillness (without the jets) and the feeling of floating.

I work in large room with two other people, I try to keep my music so that just I, can hear it, but sometimes can hear extremely loud music blaring from THEIR computers, I have to ask them to turn it down.

Last night my husband was kissing my neck, I was so ticklish that I started giggling uncontrollably, and got goose bumps all over me, and had to make him stop... not quite the reaction

he wanted...or maybe it is...

December 24, 2011 at 05:58 PM · Are you Sensual?

Only when you are around Emily ...

December 24, 2011 at 06:51 PM · i dont believe you have to be particularly sensual to be a good or talented musician. i have the feeling that performers of music are probably masters at saying things, phrasing them, singing them out....rather than getting tittilated by them. by the way, your pictures are definitely sensual, but it always takes distance, some detachment and abstraction to create. nothing sensual about that aspect, quite the opposite. something else to induce and capture sensuality than to be immersed in it. feeling the sensuality definitely helps you define it, but (re)creating is another thing in my opinion.

as for myself, i appreciate sensuality most in small subtle ways. for instance, i love a lot of japanese and other asian food like vietnamese where there are not too strong flavours, but deliciously balanced. i distrust strong flavours. they want to force your insides to change mood; thats quite devious. perhaps this also applies to some music...i think this is why i like learning music and about music; i did not like the aspect of being a listener- i dont like the idea of using music as sensual catharsis. its like we use and use...consuming all the time. anyway, thats my opinion, not meaning to be contrary

December 25, 2011 at 04:46 AM · Not only having super-senses and being super-sensitive, but also being completely insatiable. "The eye never has its fill of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing..." Though there is nothing new under the sun, I refuse to sleep.

The only up-side of sleeping is the outside chance that the dreams will be hyper-reality. Those dreams are sweet!

December 28, 2011 at 02:32 AM · fortunately, I wandred to the bottom of the 'current topics' page and found this!

Are musicians more sensual?

I'd say yes. Mostly. Thats surely why we are drawn to make music, its a sublime way to let the emotions you feel get out. I say mostly because I think some musicians (and artists) have a lot to say without actually taking much in. They efuse as it were.

Are you strongly driven by your senses?

Visual yes; taste, yes; touch, muchly; Smell, average I think; but (and this is almost a confession) aural, not so much! Kinda makes me wonder if I'm a fraud! I don't hug the radio or listen to every music kind I can. Never have.

Are you drawn to art, bright colors, or other visual stimulation (grand mountain scenery, caves, seven wonders, etc.)?

Very much. In particular pattern, more so than colour...

Do you like to put your hands on things (rock climb, dough kneading, weed pulling)?

Yes, yes.

Are you particularly over-sensitive?

Very much - tend to read into others actions a lot that they don't say and, more unfortuantely, a lot that they never intended to say :-

Are you a light sleeper?

heh! sleeper?

Do sounds get to you?

Nope. I like to work with a lot of background noise - in a coffees shop with blaring music for example. Background noise calms me.

Or are you touch sensitive?

Very

Are you ticklish?

very

Do clothes make you itch?

sometimes.

Perhaps I'm better characterized as emotionally sensitive rather than sensory organ sensitive... But maybe there is something in that ...

December 28, 2011 at 04:46 AM · I don't hear much sensuality in modern playing. I have to listen to Kreisler or Thibaud for that.

December 28, 2011 at 10:19 AM · I think there are different degrees, kinds and forms Corwin. Some find Kreisler OTT - I happen to love the range but find Hillary Hahn just as sensual in her own way.

Its a bit like which kind of wine is best? I like pinot noire but I sure can appreciat an excellent ice wine too!

December 28, 2011 at 01:17 PM · Wow when this subject came up I thought it was way to much for me. Now I am understanding and things are becoming clear. Now I understand I'm not so odd. My family has always teased me for being overly sensitive I'm a very light sleeper. I love good music. I love art in many ways. Food needs to be special in some way or why bother. I love the feel of things. I like the touch or feel of holding my violin. Thanks for this thread.

Julie

December 29, 2011 at 02:51 AM · For me these things don't go together. I'm very sensitive in some ways, and not others. I'm emotionally sensitive, cry easily, and have "too thin" of a skin. I like bright colors, impressionist painting, oil and tempera. But the only time I have trouble sleeping is when I'm stressed out about an obvious thing that is going on in my life. Otherwise, I border on the narcoleptic and can sleep anywhere, anytime, especially in concerts and lectures if they turn the lights down. I'm generally very sensitive to light, and doubt I could live in Alaska during the winter without sinking into a light-deprived depression.

I am a somewhat picky eater, too, and might starve to death if the only things available to eat were the ones you mention. I barely eat fish at all, and my mother still tells a story about me as a baby sitting next to someone eating fish and screaming my head off and having to be carried from the room. (My husband is a picky eater of a different subset of foods, and karma is laughing at us by giving us children who eat only the intersection, not the union, of the set of foods we each ate as children).

I'm also sensitive to high-pitched notes. I took up the viola primarily because I prefer the pitch range and the lack of E-string on that instrument. But lately I've been working on getting used to the "gerbil zone" on the violin and learning to get along with my E-string using a combination of better intonation and a left earplug to take the edge off. I've gotten so I feel comfortable with the high G and high A now, but the B and C still need work. I don't have to play anything above that very often . . .

I don't tend to see myself as sensual because I tend to get lost in my head and thereby ignore sensory input. I can, and have, just forgotten to eat because I was so lost in doing something, until the hypoglycemic headache hits.

But I find it remarkable to equate being a light sleeper or an insomniac with being sensual. Sleep, or near-sleep, is the one situation where I do feel sensual. I love to sleep--I love everything about it, the way it feels, the way music sounds when I'm falling asleep to it, the way dreams appear, the way sheets and pajamas and fabrics feel. My husband is like that, though--a light sleeper who has trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. Sometimes I envy him his wakefulness, and he in turn envies my ability to nap. He's sensitive in other ways as you describe, and he is not a musician at all.

December 29, 2011 at 08:40 AM · I second Tammuz' post!

January 28, 2012 at 10:14 AM · Am I sensual?

As a musician, yes.

As a teacher, no !!

January 28, 2012 at 10:49 AM · Sensual teachers go to jail.

January 28, 2012 at 02:30 PM · Fascinating discussion - I suggest that adding "eloquent" to the list is necessary.

January 28, 2012 at 04:40 PM · Part of this discussion reminds me of past discussions regarding how people process information. I have a friend who grew up in a very musical family. She is such an auditory processor that she can't have music playing in the background while she works. But, I think that people who choose the violin have to have an especially strong sensual awareness. The violin is such an intimate object--how many other instruments are played so close to the body? And the types of tactile feedback you get from it are intimately tied up in how aware you are of your playing. Also, the violin and bow as objects are a work of art! Sometimes I am distracted by the depth of the "flames" on the back of my violin.

January 28, 2012 at 07:34 PM · This is a major area of research as it relates to ADD and other brain functions not related to ADD. In short, as I understand it, there are "systems" that transmit impulses, and "systems" that are "inhibitory" that filter out or suppress impulses. The inhibitory system in most people serves as a traffic cop in the brain to recognize and let the predominant signal through and filter out the others. So, even tho there is continuous data coming from all the nerves, most people are only aware of one thing at a time.

When people don't have an effective inhibitory system, the data from the senses comes through stronger, and from multiple sources. So, we can be aware of how the fabric of our clothes feels, at the same time as hearing something in the other room, while enjoying a snack and something on the radio... while someone else might only be aware of one of these things and the rest are filtered out by the brain. Of course, the former are more creative, see more connections between things, can multitask easier, and have more fun!

February 2, 2012 at 07:39 PM · proof is in the pudding:

http://www.latimes.com/features/food/la-fo-joshua-bell-20120202,0,45989.story

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