Will mu­sic make Swiss cheese tastier?

China Daily (Latin America Weekly) - - Top News - AGENCE FRANCE- PRESSE

BERTHOUD, Switzer­land - When search­ing for the per­fect chunk of ched­dar or parme­san, cheese afi­ciona­dos have prob­a­bly never grilled ven­dors over what kind of mu­sic was played to their cheeses.

To many, the ques­tion it­self might sound crack­ers.

But a Swiss cheese­maker has em­barked on an ex­per­i­ment to test the im­pact of mu­sic on Em­men­tal, one of the most fa­mous cheeses in Switzer­land.

March­ing through his 19th cen­tury cel­lar in Burgdorf, a town also known as Berthoud, on the edge of the Em­men­tal re­gion in cen­tral Switzer­land, Beat Wampfler shows off hun­dreds of per­fectly formed cir­cles of the clas­sic ma­tur­ing in neat rows.

A vet­eri­nar­ian by day but a cheese­maker at night, Wampfler’s love for Em­men­tal has aged well over the years like the finest stock he cul­ti­vates.

In one cor­ner of his im­pec­ca­bly clean cel­lar, nine open wooden crates sit with wheels of Em­men­tal in­side and small mu­sic speak­ers di­rectly be­low.

Since Septem­ber, the cheeses have each been blasted with sonic mas­ter­pieces from the likes of rock gods Led Zep­pelin to hip hop le­gends A Tribe Called Quest.

The project “Sonic cheese: ex­pe­ri­ence be­tween sound and gas­tron­omy” hopes to show that the power of mu­sic can in­flu­ence the de­vel­op­ment, char­ac­ter­is­tics and even fla­vor of the cheese.

“Bac­te­ria is re­spon­si­ble for the for­ma­tion of the taste of cheese, with the en­zymes that in­flu­ence its ma­tu­rity. I am con­vinced that hu­mid­ity, tem­per­a­ture or nu­tri­ents are not the only things that in­flu­ence taste,” Wampfler said.

“Sounds, ul­tra­sounds or mu­sic can also have phys­i­cal ef­fects,” he in­sisted.

The thought of play­ing rock ‘n’ roll mu­sic to in­flu­ence the fla­vor of cheese may make some sci­en­tists cringe.

Mozart or fla­menco?

But parts of the sci­en­tific com­mu­nity have spent years an­a­lyz­ing the ef­fect of sound on plants, and some moth­er­stobe be­lieve play­ing clas­si­cal mu­sic to their un­born child makes them smarter.

Mu­sic can create feel­ings, reach­ing in­side peo­ple and stir­ring their senses into a fon­due of emo­tions, in ways that can make peo­ple smile, cry or jump in ela­tion.

Is po­ten­tially test­ing whether Ro­que­fort is a fan of hard rock or if Queso is a fol­lower of fla­menco really so com­pletely far-fetched?

The Univer­sity of the Arts in Bern does not think so and is help­ing Wampfler con­duct the ex­per­i­ment.

“At first we were scep­ti­cal,” ad­mit­ted Michael Haren­berg, the univer­sity’s mu­sic di­rec­tor. “Then we dis­cov­ered there is a field called sono­chem­istry that looks at the in­flu­ences of sound waves, the ef­fect of sound on solid bod­ies.”

Sci­en­tists have ex­per­i­mented with sono­chem­istry, in par­tic­u­lar look­ing into how ul­tra­sound can af­fect chem­i­cal re­ac­tions.

With Wampfler’s re­fined cheeses, the pun­gent sounds played to them also in­clude techno beats, am­bi­ent choirs and Mozart’s clas­sic Magic Flute.

“We are try­ing to an­swer the ques­tion: in the end is there any­thing mea­sur­able? Or some­thing that has an ef­fect on the taste?” Haren­berg said.

Stu­dents at the univer­sity are help­ing to con­duct the project as part of a pro­gram launched last year to bring com­mu­ni­ties in the re­gion to­gether - in this case agri­cul­ture and the arts.

“At first we were a bit scared,” said pro­gram di­rec­tor Chris­tian Pauli.

“We never thought we would find our­selves one day in a cel­lar in Burgdorf con­cerned about cheese,” he said.


Cheese­maker Beat Wampfler lays his head on a wheel of Em­men­tal cheese, as it is be­ing ma­tured by mu­sic.

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