A sensory home: multi-sensory dining and sound

We have been exploring how we can use simple tricks turn our homes into a multi-sensory paradise. Drawing from our experience working with brands and companies we are sharing our knowledge and modifying some of our work for everyday use.  Considering our own personal multi-sensory environment can make an incredible difference to the way we live. Last time we looked at smell and how candles can add value to your dining experience. This time, we are staying in the kitchen and dining room, but concentrating on our ears.

Experiments have shown that people enjoy a drink more when listening to music. Simply playing something can make the difference. Curated music and bespoke soundscapes are big part of the work we do to help companies improve their brand experience, and many of these elements can be adapted for home use.

People are more likely to engage in an experience if they think it is authentic. When listening to a soundscape specific sounds become aligned with a past experience and so authenticated by our brains. Memory is powerful and certain songs and sounds drip with potential narratives and associative power. Why not serve ice-cream with the sound of the sea to take your guests back to their childhood holidays. Or bring an Italian feast to life with the authentic sounds of Rome clattering away in the background.

Or, as we did when we in our workshops with IKEA, used the sound of the forest to compliment woodland foods such as mushrooms or venison.This creates a connection to the origins of the ingredients.

Soundscapes can bring certain flavours to the forefront. In a research project for a beer company, we found in our focus group that the sound of wind running through barley helped people focus on this element of the flavour during the tasting. We can think of sound as an ingredient in our cookery, bringing certain parts of the recipe to the forefront.

It’s important to consider volume. Loudness has been proven to directly affect our perception of flavour.  As music increases in volume, we tend to think of things as less sweet, we also tend to notice taste less and eat more. So turn down the tunes if you want people to enjoy the subtle flavours of your lemon souffle. Turn it up for curry night! 

Tempo encourages people to eat more quickly or slowly and pitch plays its part as well. Listening to music of a higher pitch means people perceive things as sweeter. Play a lower pitch sound, and people report their food to be more bitter. A nice idea is to create a playlist for your evening which takes the courses you are serving into consideration. This is a less intimidating than maybe pumping in the sound of the a Moroccan souk over people trying to enjoy your tagine! 

People tend to make judgement of quality taste based on their perceived quality of the music they are listening to and research suggests that this goes beyond personal taste. So sophisticated high quality recordings can make all the difference. Classical music may impress your guests with your sophistication and taste anyway, but it might also be improving the taste of your food.

We all eat, several times a day so, it makes sense to make the most of this time, either having fun with your family, or impressing your dinner guests. Music and soundscapes are a really nice way to add a sense of occasion to a mealtime and they do not need to interfere with the conversation. In fact, they will add to it if they are added with careful consideration.

Music is easily available and free, and soundscapes too are easily purchased or streamed online. We’d love to hear from you about some of your suggestions for what pairings work, and don't.