If there are two things I love, they’re music and food. They often go together: KUSC’s classical music with my morning coffee and toast or one of my favorite records of the year with a late lunch. I’ve often felt like the right music made food taste better but now there’s science to back that up. Certain music, the research finds, brings out the natural flavor of food in the most unique ways.
“Researchers at the University of Oxford have been looking for a link between sound and taste,” explains NPR. “They’ve found that higher-pitched music — think flutes — enhances the flavor of sweet or sour foods. Lower-pitched sounds, like tubas, enhance the bitter flavors.”
The research team calls it “multi-sensory food perception,” which, I must admit doesn’t sound all that delicious. But still, it’s an interesting concept. And as we age, we lose our ability to taste all the natural flavor of food, which may be one of the reasons we turn to sometimes unhealthy ingredients or excess amounts of salt and sugar.
“Flavor is probably one of the most multi-sensory of our experiences … because it does involve taste and more smell than we realize,” Charles Spence, a professor of experimental psychology at Oxford University and the study’s lead author, told NPR. “But all of the senses come together to give us that one unified experience of flavor.”
Spence points to the textures of food, which have unique sounds all their own: the crunch of chips, the slurp of coffee or the fizz of soda for example. “But the other place where sound affects taste,” NPR explains, “is in the environment; imagine listening to the sounds of the sea while you’re eating fish at a seaside restaurant.”
Now, Spence and his team are working with “synesthetic sounds,” which asks tasters to match flavors with sounds, “they discovered the connection between high-pitched sounds and sweets and low-pitched sounds and bitter tastes,” NPR notes.
“You can then start creating experiences where you play particular kinds of music or soundscape to diners or to drinkers while they’re tasting,” Spence said. “We’re able to show that we can change the experience in [the] mouth by about 5 or 10 percent.”
Have you noticed the natural flavor of food enhanced by the music or sounds you’re listening to while eating?
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