You Gouda Brie kidding: a cheesy music experiment

Can music influence the food that a person is eating?

Swiss cheesemaker Beat Wampfler and director of the Music Department at University of the Arts in Bern, Michael Harenberg pose with a vinyl record and a wheel of Emmental. Photograph: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

Swiss cheesemaker Beat Wampfler and director of the Music Department at University of the Arts in Bern, Michael Harenberg pose with a vinyl record and a wheel of Emmental. Photograph: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

 

From tinkling piano music at a romantic dinner-for-two spot to party music at a taco bar, the power of music is regularly used to create an atmosphere and to positively impact customers’ experience in a restaurant. Music has a long established capacity to influence the person who’s eating, but can it also influence the food that person is eating?

November is Food Month in The Irish Times, with food-related articles in all our sections, plus reader events, competitions and exclusive content at irishtimes.com/foodmonth
November is Food Month in The Irish Times, with food-related articles in all our sections, plus reader events, competitions and exclusive content at irishtimes.com/foodmonth

Amateur cheesemaker Beat Wampfler from Switzerland has been playing around with different genres of music in an on-going experiment to see how they might influence the Emmental cheese he makes in his 19th century cellar in Burgdorf, Switzerland. According to AFP.com Wampfler, who’s a veterinarian by day, has teamed up with The University of the Arts in Bern to pair his wheels of Emmental with tiny speakers playing everything from Led Zepplin to Mozart to a Tribe Called Quest.

The project is called Sonic Cheese: Experience Between Sound and Gastronomy, and those involved are hoping to show the impact music can have on the development, characteristics and even the flavour of the cheese. It’s not a million miles away from the idea that playing classical music to an unborn child might make them smarter, and the (albeit inconclusive) research around plants being positively impacted by music or by its growers speaking to them, too.

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The sonic cheese project team have been intrigued and encouraged by the field of sonochemistry, which studies the impact of sound waves on solid bodies. Ultrasound, in particular, is used to alter chemical reactions and processes.

“Bacteria is responsible for the formation of the taste of cheese, with the enzymes that influence its maturity,” Wampfler said, speaking AFP.

“I am convinced that humidity, temperature or nutrients are not the only things that influence taste... Sounds, ultrasounds or music can also have physical effects.”

The cheese will be tested in the new year to see if their diet of music has had any impact on the taste of Wampfler’s cheese.

“Will the cheese taste better? It’s hard to say,” Wampfler said. “I hope that the hip-hop cheese will be the best.”

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