music and food taste

A dish can not only be flavored by salt and pepper, but also with sounds. According to Professor Charles Spence. Charles Spence studies what consist the perfect meal. He says it’s more dependent on ‘everything else’ that surrounds the dish, rather than the food itself. For instance, music. Is it really possible to make food taste better with the right music?  

Professor Charles Spence is head of the Crossmodal Research Laboratory, Department of Experimental Psychology at Oxford University. He is interested in neuroscience, especially as it relates to food and drink. This is a new field of research called gastrophysics, one that he describes in his latest book titled The Perfect Meal. What I find interesting is the connection between food and music, especially for Foodmelodies. What impact does the music you listen to have on the food taste. Can you really enhance the taste of food and drinks by making sure that the music matches the flavour?

The tongue is not the only way to taste the flavour, because your brains first make an expectation for the taste with observations with your eyes and nose. What we hear can also supress our ability to taste! The following interesting results are found in his research;  

 Get the music right and research shows you will get 10-12% more enjoyment from whatever you are drinking or eating. 
What we hear can change what we taste. Change the music you listen to and may very well change the taste of whatever you are eating or drinking. 
Loud background noise supresses our ability to taste sweet and salty tastes, but can enhance our ability to taste umami. 
Low-pitched sounds and the sound of bass intruments tend to bring out bitterness, while high-pitched piano or wind chimes will bring out the sweetness. Research shows 5-10% change in sweetness ratings not unusual. 
The latest research shows that Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise makes wine taste fruitier while listening to Debussy’s Jardin Sous la Pluie can make a wine taste 20% more acidic instead.

Why the background noise have different effects on different tastes is yet not known. Charles Spence says that one possible solution is suggested by Yan and Dando (2015). There may be some interference from the auditory nerves in those that transmit information about the taste of food and drinks from mouth to brain. Interestingly, a few years ago, researchers discovered the existence of direct neural connections between the ear and nose (Wesson & Nilson, 2010). Suggesting that specific kinds of loud sound might lead to a direct suppression of olfactory function. This merging of smell with sound some have wanted to call a new sense, and called it ‘smound’ (Peeples, 2010).

Noise and music can change your experience and enjoyment while your eating, or when you’re about to eat. For example in a restaurant, when the music is very loud, you’ll probably order something else on the menu, than when is music is very delicate. Yan & Dando found out that’s is much more likely that people order tomato juice in earplanes (85-90 dB), than when they’re on the ground. The loud noise supress the ability to taste sweetness and saltiness, but enhances the umami taste which can be found in drinks like a Bloody Mary. The noise in many restaurants are about 90-100 dB. That’s quite loud. No wonder that restaurant critics include noise ratings. 

Is making food taste better through music possible (assuming that the background music isn’t too loud)? What impact does the music you listen to have on the taste of you’re eating or drinking. Can you really enhance the taste of food and drinks by making sure that the music matches the flavour? Research shown allready that listening to classical music makes wine (possibly other drinks) taste more expensive. If you want to bring out the authentic feel in a dish, make sure you match the music with the food or drink.  French dish.. Play some French accordion music for example. Generally speaking, the more you like the music, the more you’ll like what you’re tasting. It’s called sensation transference, the idea is that we transfer what we feel about the music to what we think about the food and drink. 

For me, the key between music and food is emotion. That’s why I started Foodmelodies. Charles Spence writes that the mood and emotion can be induced by listening to music, it can influence the drink and food taste. Uplifting music is always a good thing! After all, we taste with our minds, rather than just with our tongues. Getting the brain ready for flavour experience is more important than your tongue. 

And it goes further than that! Multisensory science found out that there are links between music and taste for specific aromas and flavours. Also beyond music’s effect on taste, the beats per minute and loudness of the music can influence how quickly we eat and drink! I know it’s a lot of information, but so interesting, especially for me and Foodmelodies. Below I added a video from Professor Charles Spence and his talk about ‘The Perfect Meal’. It’s 50 minutes long, if you don’t have the time ( which I can totally understand), the food and music part begins at 24:40 minutes. 

It turns out that what we hear changes our perception of food taste and how much we enjoy the experience of eating and drinking. Food and music is a match made in heaven and I can proudly say that my slogan is scientifically correct!

Foodmelodies, because the right music makes the dish more enjoyable!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *