World Music Day: The Curious Correlation Between Rhythm And Food
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When we say a restaurant, a café or a pub has ‘great ambience’, we invariably mean that the place has pleasant interiors; it serves delicious food; and plays some good music. It’s no surprise that music soothes our senses and lifts our mood. Now, pair food with music, and this harmony is often heavenly. In fact, the musical notes to a great extent influences the rhythm of chewing. Thus, it is believed that if food covers 50% of our overall experience at a restaurant, the other half is definitely the atmosphere of the place, of which the music is a major part. No wonder, many a time we pick a place to dine that also features live bands, relaxing ambient music or, at least, has a good playlist. Together, food and music create ras that we all crave.

Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t just the tongue that is judging the food that we consume. Apart from the sense of taste, what we smell, touch, see, and hear are also important. According to studies, listening to music while eating may help increase our food and drink intake. This, however, also means that you are spending more time in the restaurant! People tend to eat faster when their ears are exposed to fast-paced electronic tracks, while soothing, soulful music makes you eat and drink at a slower pace. The soundscape helps build the perception of the taste of food, which eventually also influences what we think of any dish or drink. Even comfort food gets more comforting when we eat it while listening to music.



There is a curious correlation between food and music. Rhythm notes create energy and build an atmosphere which, in turn, enhance the flavour of the food. And just in restaurants, they make a pitch-perfect pairing in the kitchen too. You’ll find a lot of people turning on the radio while cooking or baking at home. It helps them to stay relaxed and prepare a meal better. Experts at the Crossmodal Research Laboratory at the University of Oxford have found clear associations between taste and pitch. While high-pitched notes seem to have a connection with sweet and sour foods, low-pitched sounds are associated with bitter and umami tastes. The study - that focussed on auditory and gustatory stimuli - also found that a soundtrack accompanying a meal may change its taste. The many music cafés mushrooming in towns and cities across the world seem to be in sync with the pairing of food and rhythm. 

Lead researcher experimental psychologist Charles Spence is of the opinion that although currently there are more anecdotal than serious scientific findings showing how interactive the relationship between music and food is, the prospects are bright and interesting. Music, he thinks, has a larger impact on taste than the other way round. “There’s sort of a neural real estate, because there is so much more of our brain given over to hearing and vision than to taste and smell,” Charles explains. 

In the future, the food and music pairing may even lead to healthier eating. But in order to reach a more consolidated conclusion, studies would have to be more long-range than the current ones. Also, it’s expected that researchers will probably “begin with sugar reduction strategies since sweetness is more easily understood than saltiness in musical mappings of taste”.