Diners tucking into spicy food in curry houses are unlikely to notice music being played in background, however new research shows it could be having a remarkable effect on their taste buds.
For the first time research has shown that traditional music, often played by curry restaurants to set the mood for diners, may also be making their food taste hotter.
Scientists at the University of Oxford have discovered that certain types of music - those with fast beats, distorted notes and high-pitched sounds - can enhance the sensation of heat from chilli peppers.
In a series of tests researchers were able to produce specific soundtracks that can boost the spiciness of food by up to 10 per cent.
They describe the effect as "sonic seasoning". A shrill violin concerto or fast samba music were among the most effective types of music while distorted notes also seemed to increase the sensation of heat.
Professor Charles Spence, an experimental food psychologist at the University of Oxford who led the study, said traditional Indian music played in restaurants - which often features shrill, distorted notes on a sitar, a fast beat played on small drums known as talba, and high pitched singing - may also enhance the spiciness of a curry.
He said: "Some of qualities we identify for spicy music in our study are also reminiscent of Indian music. We are looking at a 5-10pc change normally."
The researchers, whose work is published in the scientific journal Food Quality and Preference, first tried to identify elements in music that might be associated with spiciness in food.
They asked volunteers to assess what music they thought would most likely be associated with spicy food from a selection of 36 different tracks.
A group of 180 volunteers were asked to eat a battered butternut squash dusted with ancho chilli served with a spicy sauce while they listened to short clips of the soundtracks, white noise or silence.
Those listening to the soundtracks with a faster tempos, higher pitch and distorted sounds rated the dish as spicier and with more intense flavours than those listening to silence or white noise.
Janice Wang, a psychologist at the University of Oxford who was also an author of the study, said it appears certain aspects of the music seem to enhance the sensation of heat.
She said: "We hypothesise this is because the spicy soundtrack primes people's expectation of spiciness in the food. "We are not sure whether it's exposure to this type of music that makes people associate spiciness with high pitch and distortion.
"Another idea is that high pitch, high distortion, and fast tempo are associated with high energy, and that reflects the sensation of eating spicy foods."
The research suggests that some modern music such as the Arctic Monkey's hit 'I bet you look good on the dancefloor' and 'Never fallen in love' by the Buzzcocks could also be ideal for bringing out the spiciness in food.
Dr Wang said: "People found that fast tempo, high pitch, and high levels of distortion matched well with spiciness. Any music with those characteristics would be more likely associated with spiciness. "If there's a cultural element - say with Indian or Brazilian influence - that can only make the association stronger."