As bitter as a trombone

Data from an experiment in which subjects listened to a series of pitches played on various instruments while tasting flavors such as lemon, peppermint, and salt showed significant connections between the sounds of the instruments and flavor perceptions.

For example, the taste of sugar was considered inappropriate for brass instruments, while it matched well with the piano. Orange-flower went with brass but not with strings, while coffee failed to correspond with brass but suited woodwinds nicely. “Our results”, the researchers noted with commendable practicality, “raise important questions about our representation of tastes and flavors and could also lead to applications in the marketing of food products.”

This according to “As bitter as a trombone: Synesthetic correspondences in nonsynesthetes between tastes/flavors and musical notes” by Anne-Sylvie Crisinel and Charles Spence (Attention, perception, and psychophysics LXXII/7 [October 2010], pp. 1994-2002). Thanks to the Improbable research blog for bringing this to our attention!

Below, the picante trombones of Willie Colón’s band, ca. 1967.

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