The Scientific American‘s brand new blog Food Matters published a fascinating story on the connection between what we hear and what we taste.

A recent study found astonishing connections between pitch and flavor. Volunteers were given four pieces of identical toffee—two to be eaten to the tune of low pitch brass instruments and the rest to a high pitched piano piece. Volunteers reported that the toffee eaten to the brass instruments was bitter, while the pieces eaten to piano music was sweet.

These sensory connections are just as important for the marketing world as they are for the culinary world. Dr. Charles Spence, a professor of Experimental Psychology at Oxford University, used his cross-modal research to create a soundtrack for Starbucks that encourages coffee drinking (as if the line wasn’t already long enough.)

Dr. Spence also uses his powers for good, teaming up with English celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal to elevate dishes at his 3 Michelin-starred restaurant The Fat Duck. Using the powers of sense, Spence paired the sounds of crashing waves with one of Blumenthal’s signature dishes “Sound of the Sea”, which consists of “razor clams, sea urchin, and oysters paired with seafood foam, tapioca, and panko sand.” Using an iPod tucked expertly inside a conch shell, the calming sounds of the ocean play as you tuck in to your seafood smorgasbord.

Auditory influences also come into play with Blumenthal’s bacon and egg ice cream. Eating to the sound of chickens clucking brought out the egg for diners, while the sound of bacon sizzling in a frying pan brought out more porcine flavors. Watch the chef impress the ladies from his local women’s institute and learn to make your own breakfast themed ice cream in the video below.

Another way advertisers can use sound to their advantage: Having consumers associate a product with the auditory qualities of its packaging, in hopes that a Pavlov’s dog effect will ensue. Take, for instance, the above Pringles commercial (featuring Brad Pitt) that used the signature sound of its packaging opening as an auditory cue to eat their chips.

So how can you get a bite (and a listen) of the cross-modal pie without traveling to a Michelin-starred restaurant? The San Francisco based website Turntable Kitchen offers a “Pairings Box” for $25 that might do the trick. Marrying food and music, the Pairings Box offers seasonal recipes, dried ingredients and suggested pairings with limited edition vinyl and a digital mixtape. Bon appetite and happy listening.

[via Food Matters]