How music changes the way we taste food

Musician, food writer and Big Feastival founder Alex James learns the scientific secrets of pairing food to music in a new video with Dr Ophelia Deroy

  • Alex James and cognitive neuroscientist Dr Deroy put science to the test in a new video revealing the top food and music pairings.
  • Dishes are sampled with different music styles to prove that certain sounds can alter the way we taste.
  • Getting the right combination is more than just satisfying for the senses; it has been proven to boost our memory and overall tasting experience.

Food and music: two of the greatest pleasures in life. But did you know we appreciate certain dishes more when listening to particular kinds of music?

Ahead of this year’s The Big Feastival, the UK’s leading music and food festival, host Alex James met with Dr Ophelia Deroy – cognitive neuroscientist and Deputy Director at the Institute of Philosophy – to discover first-hand how our music choices can affect the way we taste.

The duo tested four dishes from The Big Feastival’s street food vendors along with a variety of musical styles, discussing how the correct combination enhances our overall experience and makes positive memories even stronger.

Dr Deroy explains: “A change in music – whether it’s pitch, tempo, volume or instrumental – actually alters our wider perceptions, even in a single bite.

The research shows that high-pitched music can bring out fruity and citrus notes in a dish, as sampled by Alex with Oli Baba’s halloumi fries, which are sprinkled with fresh pomegranate seeds and seasoning.

Dark flavours – such as the velvety chocolate from Churros Garcia – are truly intensified with the addition of deep and heavy bass in a song.

Dr Deroy adds: “When slow, relaxed music is played and people are asked to describe what they taste, we find the answers are detailed and descriptive. When we ramp up the beats per minute, the fast music encourages faster chewing and people are less likely to pick up on all the flavours in the dish.

The individual elements in Breddos Tacos’ pulled pork dish become more obvious to Alex as the music slows which, according to the research, will strengthen his memory of the overall tasting experience.

Dr Deroy also notes that loud music amplifies the spiciness in each mouthful of Rainbo’s gyozas: “Some spices stimulate your facial nerves and lips, and these are the same mechanical vibrations that loud music produces. The two elements combined make for a very spicy experience!”

Following the tasting session, Alex James commented: “I wasn’t sure I would notice a difference between the flavours, but it really worked. The combination of good music and delicious food has always brought me great joy, especially through the festival, and this just goes to show that if you can get that perfect match, you’re onto a real winner!

Oli Baba’s, Churros Garcia, Rainbo, Breddos Tacos and many more top UK street-food vendors will be serving up delicious dishes at The Big Feastival 2017. The festival will also welcome some of the UK’s top musical and culinary acts to the heart of the Cotswolds this August Bank Holiday.

DATES: Friday 25th, Saturday 26th, Sunday 27th August 2017

VENUE: Alex James’ Farm, Kingham, The Cotswolds.

Direct trains from London Paddington to Kingham Train Station, which only take 90 minutes.

For full information on the music, food and family programmes and to purchase tickets, visit:

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