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Does music affect the taste of food?

 

“If you pour some music on whatever’s wrong, it’ll sure help out”– Levon Helm

Music and food are connected to each since olden times. The relationship between music and food is a subtle one, involving a coalescence of all our senses and emotions. In both Western and non-Western cultures, food and music are usually part of the same ritual, and both may be used to foster a sense of community, meditation, or festive abandon.  One thing that essentially connects music and food is the inherent factor of bliss that one experiences when indulging in either of the two. In terms of the sensations and subtle feelings associated with the same, an eargasm and a foodgasm are score quite similarly on the “ecstasy scale.”

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There have been several studies which have explored the influence of  non-gustatory factors on our evaluation of food, including its graphic appearance (e.g. its color), texture, temperature and the properties of its container (e.g. the firmness of the cup). Another important non-gustatory factor which has been explored with regards to its inherent influence on food and taste is ofcourse, music. A study laid down by American scientists found that the sound track you listen to while eating can actually modify the way you perceive the taste of the food. In order to explain this, scientists conducted an experiment  using background music, which discovered associations between dissimilarities in pitch and the perception of sour, sweet, bitter, and salty tastes. 10 volunteers were given four pieces of toffee. Out of which two toffees were eaten by the volunteers who were listening to a slow soundtrack music instrument and the other two with a high, rough piano music.

Tripped Out Fact: Although all the toffees given to the volunteers were the same they found the first two perceived the taste of the toffees (eaten with slow music) as sweet and the other two consumed toffees as more inclined towards a bitter taste.

Dr. Charles Spence, who leads Oxford University’s Crossmodal Research Laboratory has conducted research to explain the relationship between sound and taste.  The participants were given two samples of “bacon and egg” ice cream that were either complemented by a soundtrack of chickens clucking in a farmyard or combined with the sounds of bacon sizzling in a frying pan.

Tripped Out Fact: Although the same ice cream was served both times, participants rated the bacon flavor as stronger when paired with the sound of sizzling bacon and more “eggy” when the sound of chickens played.

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Another research was conducted by one of the owners of a leading restaurant in US. He invited few hungry people for free dinner in his restaurant. The only requirement for these volunteers was that all of them had to complete a ‘dining satisfaction survey’ questionnaire at the end. Four sittings of men and women were aided the same slap-up meal in identical restaurant settings. But for each group of electorates, the music volume and ‘background chatter’ levels were subtly twisted. And although these changes to the ‘soundscape’ were minor, they resulted in some intense changes to the eating pleasure. The survey showed that the taste of food was nice when served with classical slow music, bad when the music was loud and worst when there was no music played.  Silence actually took away the enjoyment of eating!

The basic understanding that can be attributed to the influence of music on our taste and the essential way in which we perceive food, is the inherent way in which music influences our feelings and emotions. It is being widely accepted in today’s world that the act of eating involves and incorporates all five senses. Essentially, as music has a profound effect on our thought-processes as well as our emotions as a whole, this can heavily influence us during acts of feasting as well as cooking. Consider this, if in the process of cooking or eating, a person is listening to really loud metal songs, or depressing baritones of a piano, the feelings that are induced in that individual will vary accordingly. These feelings will heavily impact the overall perception that the person has with relation to the taste of the food and the overall act of cooking or eating.

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At the end of the day, we experience food and music at an intensely visceral level, which is beyond the comprehension of conscious thought. Amidst the myriad facts and scientific beckoning behind the relationship of music and food with the mind, we have to understand that instead of analyzing and tearing apart the basic facts, we just need to give in to the experience of both.

As they say, loose yourself in the sensory overload that both food and music bring on intensely.

Further Tripping…

Read on about how you can eat through your ears

Read on about the relationship between taste and sound

Read on about how music has been used to enhance the activity of cooking and eating

 

About Minal Rawal

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