Medical Mysteries of Music

Published on June 16th, 2016 | by Alan Cross

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The Science is In: Music Can Change the Taste of Beer.

Have you ever been sipping your favourite brew and you noticed that it tasted a little bit…different? It’s the same beer at the same temperature in the same bottle/glass, yet something seems slightly off? It’s not you–well, actually it is, but we’ll get to that–but the cause could be the music.

A study in Belgium–and you know the Belgians; they like their beer–has discovered that the music you hear as you’re drinking beer can change its taste. The music can even affect the beer’s alcoholic strength.

Vrije Universiteit Brussel gathered up a bunch of beer drinkers and served them three different types of brews, going from pale to dark. Alcoholic content ran between 4.5% and 8%.  Participants were asked to rate the taste depending on the music that was being played. Did it taste sweeter? More sour? More bitter? After some trial and error (and a lot of beer), the scientists were able to come up with “sweet” and “bitter” soundtracks. They also determined that even the perception of a beer’s alcoholic content was modulated.

The long and short: music with higher pitches turned the taste of drinks more sour. Deep bass makes beer taste bitter.

Dr Felipe Carvalho, the boffin in charge of the study, says “For the first time we have demonstrated that it is possible to systematically modulate the perceived taste and strength of beers, by sonic cues.”

Well, so what? This has potential to guide drinking establishments and restaurants tailor the music they play for their customers. Dr Caravalho: “External sound can add value and pleasure to the overall eating and drinking experience.  People’s perception of the sweetness and bitterness of bittersweet foods can be modulated by means of customized sweet and bitter soundtracks.”

I wish they’d released the music they used. This has the making of a fun weekend experiment.

(Via the Daily Mail)




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About the Author

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.


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