Sound Seasoning: Can Playlists make your Food taste Better?
Disclaimer: This is a lighthearted piece only loosely based on fact. P/P cannot guarantee that smooth jazz trumpet will actually make your instant noodles taste better.
I was working in PR when Johnnie Walker launched their mega-campaign, Symphony In Blue, you might remember it for the videos of Jude Law tap dancing, or for the elaborate events they held for socialites around the world. I remembered it for a drastically different reason.
“So they’re gonna have this hall people eat food in, and there’s gonna be a flavour organ.”
“A flavour what?” I replied blankly.
“A flavour organ, they play different sounds and the flavour of the food is supposed to change.”
That sounded like a load of crock, so of course I had to find out more.
The idea of a flavour organ, as it turns out, goes back to the 19th century novel A Rebours, by author J.K. Huysmans. He describes the flavour organ as a contraption that could give “tastes to the delights of music”. Another literary forerunner of the contraption was the Scent Organ in Aldous Huxley's Brave New world.
This concept finally met reality in research by flavour Scientists at Oxford Unversity’s Crossmodal Research Laboratory.
“There may be implicit associations between taste and pitch,” says experimental psychologist Charles Spence “High pitched sounds are more commonly associated with sweet and sour tasting foods while Low itched noises are more commonly paired with more bitter and umami tastes.”
To test this, the scientists gave their pool of subjects the same toffee samples, subjects intending to higher pitches found the toffee sweeter, while subjects who listened to lower pitches reported the toffee tasting more bitter.
While this may sound somewhat high-concept, Charles Spence gives us an research anecdote against this in the Smithsonian Magazine's article "What does Sweetness Sound Like?"
In it he says "We’ve shown that if you take something with competing flavors, something like bacon-and-egg ice cream, we were able to change people’s perception of the dominant flavor—is it bacon, or egg?—simply by playing sizzling bacon sounds or farmyard chicken noises”. And so is it fair to say that music, can help to manipulate our sense of taste?
How Does This Affect Me?
Real life implementations include experimental desserts (a chocolate coated toffee that you could choose a soundtrack to for a sweeter or more bitter dessert) as well as bespoke 13-Track playlists put out by British Airways to enhance the taste of in-flight food (According to them, Madonna’s ray of light works particularly well with Lemon Sponge cake.)
Today we’ll break down sounds and their corresponding tastes for you to create the perfect playlist for you to up the ante on your order-in meal or whatever instant noodles you've thought to get from Samyang.
We'll mostly be focusing on instrumental music, (with a select few vocal pieces) since it's slightly easier to quantify than pop genres.
Brass: Salt, MSG, Caffeine, Orange Flower, Citric Acid
Legendary Jazz Trumpeteer Dizzy Gillespie working his magic
These flavours are pretty varied, but we're inclined to believe that Brass sounds have the best chance of turning your instant noodles into a gourmet meal. Brass band music is, unfortunately, not very relaxing, so unless you're into the full pomp and circumstance of brass orchestras, we have a few jazzy picks for you.
Kermit Ruffins- Drop me off in New Orleans
Arturo Sandoval- Funky Cha Cha
Kenny G- Ritmo y Romance
Getz and Giberto- The Girl from Ipanema
Piano: Sucrose, Almond, Peppermint, Vanilla
Turns out piano goes great with most classic desserts: Bakewell Tarts, Macarons, anything with vanilla in it and peppermint creams and teas and maybe even that drink Starbucks puts out every christmas.
There's a ton of piano pieces to go with your dessert, so be sure to put on something you like, these are just some recommendations we've dredged out for the evenings you're having dessert for dinner.
Debussy- Clair de Lune
Liszt- Liebesträume, S. 541: III. Oh Lieb, so lang du lieben kannst
Chopin- Nocturne in E-Flat Major, Op. 9 No. 2
Satie- Gnossiennes Nos. 4-6: Gnossienne No. 5
Debussy- Deux Arabesques, L. 66: I. Première Arabesque
Ryuichi Sakamoto- Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence
When life gives you lemons, put on violin music.
This is an awfully specific taste, but thankfully lots of desserts and dishes come with lemons, Lemon Meringue Tarts, Lemon Bars and Lemon Pound cakes.
You can even try it with Calamari or fish and chips to test if it actually makes the splash of lemon extra lemony.
Chaconne in G Minor-Vitali (Sarah Cheng)
Ave Maria-Bach Gounod (Yo-Yo Ma, Kathryn Stott)
Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto in D Major (Itzhak Perlman)
The Butterfly Lovers Concerto (any version with extra erhu)
Woodwind: Coffee, Rose
Flutes are good with bandung, or at least that is what the research team would have you believe.
Kitaro- Theme for the Silk Road
The Legend of Zelda- Breath of the Wild Theme
Give these musical suggestions a try the next time you decide to pamper yourself with desserts or indulge in a giant bowl of instant ramen.
Take your good music into restaurants with you with the Lotoo PAW S1
Portability is key when sneaking your own music into restaurants, the Lotoo PAW S1 is your perfect companion to that end, with both a 3.5mm and 4.4mm balanced output as well as a myriad of ATE presets so you can transform your rig into a full sensory experience, good food not included.