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An experiment in sound and taste The music I heard really did affect the flavours I tasted

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coverMaybe you’ve read about experiments that show that when potato crisps crunch louder, people say they’re fresher. And beyond crisps, all sorts of taste sensations can be manipulated by the sounds that surround them. Heavy metal apparently renders a Cabernet Sauvignon more robust. The drone of an airplane engine renders the umami of tomato juice more or less irresistable, a fact I can attest to. Top chefs are using sound to manipulate the dining experience, but when it comes down to it, I was very doubtful that drinking beer while listening to music would have any noticeable effect. I was wrong.

The revelation took place on a freezing morning in a deconsecrated church in Kilfinane, a little village between County Cork and County Limerick in Ireland. Caroline Hennessy — minus white coat — conducted the proceedings, plying us with samples from the Eight Degrees Brewing in nearby Mitchelstown, while Brian Leach played some music he’d recorded specially for the occasion. It was all part of the Hearsay Audio Festival 2015, a delight in so many ways, and although I hadn’t intended to produce a podcast there, I couldn’t pass up the chance. So here it is, and if it sounds a little rough around the edges, that’s because it was possibly the most difficult episode I’ve ever assembled.

Notes

  1. Of course that shoudn’t be a Guinness in the photos, it should be a Knockmealdown Irish Stout from Eight Degrees Brewing, but as you can tell I’ve been in a terrible rush.
  2. If you’re looking for a guide to Irish craft brews, Caroline Hennessy’s book Sláinte is available from Amazon.
  3. Brian Leach was kind enough to let me have clean copies of all his music. My apologies if I massacred it in the mix.
  4. I would have made an even bigger mess of things if Andrea Rangecroft, a superb audio producer, had not let me have her recording.
  5. I have no words to thank Hearsay Audio Festival. It really was a wonderful experience in so many ways, thanks to them, the other participants and the people of Kilfinane. I hope to be back.

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