Despite eating alone most of the time, Barbara Werner has patented a way to make the most of her meal.
“I started taking myself out to dinner, but restaurants don’t even realize what they do,” Werner, founder of Musical Pairing, said. “They announce to the room that you’re dining alone, and they clang the plates that aren’t being used so loud. So I started putting my headphones in at dinner.”
Musical Pairing is one of the latest growing tech phenomena not only on Long Island, but internationally as well. Musical Pairing has been featured in a Japanese issue of Elle and is soon to be showcased on German television. The combination seems both ordinary and revolutionary. Music and food both play extremely significant roles in our everyday lives, so why haven’t they been paired sooner?
Werner’s vision for her future business developed one night while eating a steak and potatoes dinner.“I was just eating something I’d had a thousand times before, but I realized my entire body language had changed. I was hovering over this dish, and then the track ended, and my mood was completely different,” Werner said.
Werner, a chef prior to her business, knows her food. It was the music aspect that she began to inspect. Stumbling upon research from institutions like Oxford University that explored sensory science, she knew she was onto something. Werner spent the next two years researching the relationships between particular pitches and tastes, like heavy bass and lightly salted. Next, she started looking for patterns.
“Over the course of those two years, everything I ate I wrote down every ingredient. I would look at the music and if I found one that worked, I’d write down everything about the music, too,” Werner said. “Then we overlaid mathematics on the science, and we got consistent results.”
Werner’s app, available on iOS and Google Play, asks diners what meal they are having, their protein and side dishes, and runs an algorithm to determine music suggestions. A future version of the app, patent pending, will be able to access a user’s music library and pair any song matches that they already have available with their meal.
The evident connection between hearing and taste isn’t instantly recognizable to all, but it is obvious to some. All over campus, students and staff alike are constantly jamming out to music blaring in their earbuds. It’s not hard to walk into a dining hall and spot even a few people waiting in line or already chowing down while bumping Rich Homie Quan or floating away on the voices of the Temptations. People don’t always find the perfect song for their cheeseburger or insalata caprese, and Werner wants to change that.
Werner hosts a majority of her musically paired dinners at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse in Garden City but also travels to bring the experience elsewhere.
“It’s all about elevating the dining experience,” she said. “We only use four of our senses when we eat, and instead of searching for a sixth or seventh sense, utilizing the fifth one completely alters the meal.” Werner has been impressed on numerous occasions by ringers at her events, chefs and jazz musicians alike who quickly catch on and have the intuition to play a song they know would go well with their meal over a song the app chose.
“Over the centuries, people just forgot about hearing [while eating],” Werner said about her hope for the reemergence of music and food. “For generations, courts would have the minstrels play and serenade them during dinner, it just made sense, and then it ended. In a way, we’re simply trying to bring the minstrels back.”