This task required me to make an artefact based on the idea of food. In our lecture we looked at food in terms of symbolism. We looked at a number of different scenes in films such as ‘Mr Creosote’ from the film, The Meaning of Life and ‘A Different Kind of Dinner’ from the film the Phantom of Liberty. Both of the scenes centre around the idea of food. Me and my two friends, Shahid Mahmood and Sharifah Mian decided to work as a group to pursue this project. We discussed a number of ideas and the forms we wanted to use. Our initial thought was to come up with a question so we can narrow down our research. Sharifah told us about her brother who is a audiologist. He stated that sound affects the way we taste our food. We thought this was an interesting concept and we decided to research this concept further. The question we came up with is DOES sound affect the way we taste food?
According to a growing body of research, sound CAN affect the way food tastes. Charles Spence, a professor at Oxford University has been studying the relationship between sound and taste for years. He states that sound is the “forgotten sense” when it comes to how we perceive flavours. He highlights that “When people think about flavour, they might think about taste, they might think about smell, they might think about what [the food] looks like, they might think about the texture and the mouth-feel—but they never think about the sound” (Tu 2015). This is something I found to be true. Before researching this concept, I didn’t really think sound had an effect on the way I taste my food.
“The whole idea of taste and flavour is a construction of our mind and it is all kind of an illusion that we think we taste food and all with our mouth, when in fact most of the interesting stuff is happening in our nose,” says researcher Charles Spence. “There are certain smells that you will describe as sweet things like caramel and vanilla and maybe strawberry smells that do not actually have a taste. But I can use those sweet smells to almost trick your brain into tasting sweetness.”(International 2016).
The first video we looked at was a video by BrainCraft, a YouTube channel that explores all things science.
It is said that if you listen to a song that is high pitched the food you are eating will most likely taste sweet and if you listen to a low pitched song while eating, the food will most likely taste bitter. It is also said the music in the background affects the way the food tastes. It was interesting to find that the loud background noises have an impact on the way you taste food also. Apparently loud background noises suppresses saltiness, sweetness and the overall enjoyment of the food, which is why so many people complain about airplane food. The high altitude of the airplane blocks the nasal passages, therefore access to aromas. (Fleming 2014)
When exposed to loud music in a restaurant, people often drink more. However, when people were asked what is the most irritating thing about dining out, Noise was highlighted as the second most common complaint after poor service. (Spence 2014) Many chefs see a loud restaurant as a successful thing. Ryan Poli of the Tavernita restaurant in Chicago states, “I think it’s totally wrong to think you can’t have a great restaurant that’s also pretty damn loud” (Ulla 2012). Many people are closed off to the idea that sound plays any part in the taste of your food. This is something we found when we did our primary research.
In order to gain better knowledge about this particular topic we conducted some questions which gave us insight in what other people thought. We asked 54 people from a range of different ages, genders and ethnicities the following three questions:
1. Other than taste, what do you think is the most important sense when eating? (Feel, sound, sight, smell)
2. What do you think is the least important sense when eating? (Feel, sound, sight, smell, taste)
3. On a scale of 1-10, how much do you think the sound of your food affects the way you taste it? (1=not at all, 10=a lot)
The results proved our expectations about what we thought people would say
From these results it is clear to see that majority of the people thought that smell was the most important sense when eating. As expected no one thought that sound was the most important sense.
These results highlight that majority of the people we asked thought that sound was the least important which supports Charles Spence’s statement that sound is the “forgotten sense”.
All these results come to the conclusion that majority of the people think that sound has no relationship to the way we taste food. Me and my group expected this result, however we wanted to see if it was true.
We carried out an experiment to test this theory. We got 4 people to carry out this experiment. We wanted to see how listening to music would affect the way one tastes food. We bought two packets of crisps of the same flavour. The participant would take one crisp out of one packet with their eyes closed, after eating it they would rate the crunchiness of the crisp from 1-5 (1= not crunchy at all). After this the participant would put headphones on and play some music. They would close their eyes and take a crisp from the second packet. they will then rate the crunchiness from 1-5.
This experiment didn’t work well as we only asked 4 people to take part. two of the participants said that the crisps were less crunchy and the other two said it was more crunchier when the music played. From these results we could not come to a conclusion. We didn’t keep the variables consistent for example using different music and different environment. We are planning to re-do this the experiment
During a interview with Sharifah’s brother, the audiologist explains that you cannot make someone artificially deaf which explains why the experiment did not work, We decided to take another approach.
The second try was more successful. In order to carry this out we got 10 plugs from the audiologist. We got 10 people to take part and sat them down at a table. Placed in front of them were two paper plates, both had crisps on. Each person took a crisp from plate one and ate it with their eyes closed, the room was quite. After eating it, they rated the crunchiness of the crisp from 1-5 (1 = not crunchy at all). After that we got them to take a crisp from the second plate, however this time they had to put in their ear plugs and close their eyes, we then asked them again to rate the crunchiness of the crisp from 1-5. Here are the results of this experiment
Regarding these results this indicates that sound actually does affect the way we taste food.
SOURCE OF INSPIRATION
We took inspiration from the film ‘Eat Drink Man Woman’. The scene in this film that we took inspiration from is essentially a man preparing food, this is exactly what we did, but without the video. When we watched this in our lecture I was engaged in it and really felt a part of it, mainly because of the sound design. It really makes you feel as if you are there. This is something we came back to when we came to the idea of making a soundscape. Even though we did not have visuals to our soundscape, we wanted the audience to visualize being there and to guess what we were cooking through the sounds.
Eat Drink Man Woman Scene
Another thing we drew inspiration from was the YouTube channel Peaceful Cuisine. This is owned by Ryoya Takashima a youtuber who records himself cooking food. The sounds are very dominating in these videos. Many people in the comment section have referred to these videos as hypnotic and compared it to therapy as they found the sounds of him cutting onions and garlic relaxing. Here is an example of one of his videos.
As our question is about the sound of food, we thought it was appropriate to make out first artefact a soundscape. We debated a lot about the form of the artefact. At first we came up with the idea of a person who is hard of hearing, and how he is never satisfied with the food he eats, we also came up with an idea of someone eating the same food every day, but the sound of the food changes depending on where the person is eating the food. We didn’t know how we could relate these ideas to the question we came up with. Someone then suggested the idea of a soundscape which we all thought was a good idea.
When people are preparing a meal, they only take notice of the smell and the look however our soundscape bought attention to the sound of the food being prepared. For example, the sizzling of the onions, the opening of the jar, the drink being poured in the glass. Listening to the onions sizzling in the pot could make the audience imagine what was sizzling and the taste of the food, which would make them gain an appetite. My role for this project was the sound operator. I was responsible for recording all of the sounds that are heard in the soundscape.
I thought that making a soundscape for this particular topic worked well. There were no problems in terms of recording the sound apart from the ALARM GOING OFF! It worked well in terms of our idea about how the sound of the food affects the way you taste it. I think we surprised people with the concept as we thought that it was original.
The feedback we got from class was that it was clever creating a soundscape and it worked really well, some stated that they felt part of it, that they felt they were there watching it all happen. This was a great thing to hear as we wanted it to be engaging just like the Eat Drink Man Woman scene. Our tutor told us that the fact that you couldn’t hear any people made it unnerving, he stated that it was like an industrial machine.
I think that creating this soundscape made me realize how important sound is. Sound engages the viewer; weather this is sound in a soundscape or sound in a fiction film. Sound is underrated in the filmmaking process. The sound/music has an effect on the spectator and makes them feel a certain way. It can make a scene seem more powerful. I realized that in my previous films I have given little or no thought to sound in comparison to visuals. This is something that I will pay more attention to in terms of my future projects and my FMP. I think having a small soundscape in a documentary film would be interesting and original. This is something that I will explore while making my FMP.