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Accepted abstract - Creative Tastebuds Symposium

Tasting the Sound of Culture

By Jonathan LeRoy Biderman

Research on crossmodal sensory perception has opened up a tremendous range of creative possibility for how we can shape the experience of diners and drinkers. Recent work in the field seems to be pushing the boundaries of what is included in the system of sensory perception, moving outside the body to incorporate not just an individual’s physical and cognitive conditioning as a member of a particular sociocultural group, but also the broader idea of cultural identity. The premise of the Creative Tastebuds conference — that taste is a combination of neurophysiology and sociocultural experience — brings this idea to the fore, and it led me to ask: What might the effect be of perceived culture on the experience of taste? The question is not entirely novel — priming and leveraging cultural association is a powerful element of product design and marketing. But what about concurrent multisensory experience?

The idea for this study was sparked by a recent social dinner to which each participant brought a bottle of whisky and a loosely-paired piece of classical music. Some pairings worked, some did not, and most of the pairings turned out to be based primarily on the nationality of the composer. Much has been written about the deep relationship between music and taste, particularly regarding correlations between specific elements of sound and taste experience. But what effects, if any, do the cultural associations of music have on the taste experience of whisky? To investigate this question, this study pairs randomized, repetitive, black-glass blind tasting of several whiskies with pieces of music identified by crowd-sourcing to have different, clear, widely- recognizable cultural associations. Preliminary analysis of participants’ perception of whisky and music will be shared at the conference.