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Neurogastronomy: an experiment

It hadn’t taken me long after discovering the concept of neurogastronomy to set about to test it. I found myself with a spare hour or so while at the brewery and decided to do a little science1.

Misplaced Devotion

yellow

To test this out I went with an obvious choice for me: our summer beer, Rutherford B. Haze, with The Dear Hunter’s “Misplaced Devotion.”

That song, from the Yellow section of their The Color Spectrum, just screams summer to me. When the 36 track album was first released I’d drive around blasting Yellow with the windows down.

As such, it shouldn’t really be a surprise that I think they pair together perfectly. Happy, upbeat pop matched with a crisp, light wheat? Yes. Oh yes.

I definitely have biases, but it seems as though the Rutherford tastes brighter, more refreshing. I had put myself in the mood to drink something fun and light with the music, and my flavor perception responded accordingly.

Come Out

comeout

I then chose a song that I thought would not pair well with the beer. As I scrolled through my music library to find something dark, heavy and plodding, I came across Steve Reich.

I first came across Steve Reich and “Come Out” through my friend Robert. I think everyone needs a Robert in their life, dropping seeds of obscurity into your life that can germinate for years. The idea for the song came from a benefit:

He was asked to write this piece to be performed at a benefit for the retrial of the Harlem Six, six black youths arrested for committing a murder during the Harlem Riot of 1964 for which only one of the six was responsible. Truman Nelson, a civil rights activist and the person who had asked Reich to compose the piece, gave him a collection of tapes with recorded voices to use as source material.

It uses one short clip, repeated and distorted and echoed. What begins in perfect harmony decays, each stereo channel playing at a slightly different rate.

Once again: I have stacked the deck here. I chose a song I thought would paid poorly with Rutherford, and rather unsurprisingly I think it doesn’t.

The song quickly becomes distracting, discordant. It puts me in a bit of a trance. “Come-ome ou-ou-t” “to show t’ show”, alternating between my ears. Some of the je ne sais quois of the beer has disappeared. It still tastes light, and I still enjoy it, but it tastes muddled, like looking through an old, frosted-over window. The music distracts my mind.

In the end

What does this mean? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. You have much to criticize about my methodology. And yet: I think if have learned something. I have always chosen the beer/music pairings for Music Box randomly, and I will continue to do so, but from now on I will also acknowledge that those choices have an effect. Maybe good, maybe bad, but I perceive it.

Further investigation to come.


  1. For very small values of “science”