Musical notes leave a taste on the tongue New Scientist, 05 March 2005 What sounds taste like LIFE, according to pop band The Verve, is a bittersweet symphony. But for one Swiss musician who can "taste" sound combinations, the symphony is also disgusting, with a hint of mown grass and low-fat cream. The musician, known as ES, is a synaesthete, someone who experiences an involuntarily crossover between the senses for certain types of stimuli. But not only does ES see certain colours when she hears specific notes, which is quite common among synaesthetes, she also associates different pairs of notes, or intervals, with specific tastes (see Table). Lutz Jäncke at the University of Zurich and his team tested her abilities by placing different tastes such as salty, sweet, cream and even low-fat cream on her tongue. With the gustatory cue, ES was able to identify the correct interval faster than five non-synaesthetic musicians (Nature, vol 434, p 38). But while this helps her in the complex cognitive task of accurately identifying intervals, which is useful for transcribing music, there is a drawback - it affects her musical tastes. The more pronounced the tones and intervals the more vivid the tastes and colours are, ES says. So she prefers compositions without challenging harmonies, such as baroque music. Bach, she says, is particularly creamy.