Emmental beats: Swiss researchers are playing hip-hop to cheese

Emmental beats: Swiss researchers are playing hip-hop to cheese
Copyright AFP
By Claire Heffron with AFP
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Emmental beats: Swiss researchers are playing hip-hop to cheese


A Swiss cheese-maker has conducted experiments to test the impact of music on Emmental, one of the most renowned cheeses in Switzerland.

Beat Wampfler, and his team of researchers with the help of the University of the Arts in Bern is trying to find out if exposure to sound impacts the development and taste of the cheese.

A veterinarian by day and an apron-wearing cheese devotee at night, Wampfler’s love for Emmental has progressed as time goes by.


Wampfler, who lives in Burgdor, on the edge of the Emmental region in central Switzerland, is using his cellar for the experiments, where rows of perfectly formed circles of the holey favourite are maturing.

Open wooden crates sit with wheels of the cheese with small music speakers placed directly below.

Since September, the cheeses have listened to sonic masterpieces from the likes of rock gods Led Zeppelin to hip-hop sensation A Tribe Called Quest.

The project hopes to show that the power of music can influence the development, characteristics and even the taste of the cheese.

Mozart or Hop-Hop?

“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.”

Parts of the scientific community have spent years studying the effect of sound on plants, and some moms-to-be believe playing classical music to their unborn child makes it smarter.

“At first we were skeptical,” admitted Michael Harenberg, the University of Bern’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, focusing on how ultrasound can affect chemical reactions.

With Wampfler’s cheeses, the sounds played to them also include ambient choirs, hip-hop, Mozart’s “Magic Flute” and techno beats.

“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.

Currently, the Emmentals are still immersed in their various styles, maturing their flavors in potentially sonic-induced ways, in anticipation of tasting in the new year.

“Will the cheese taste better? It’s hard to say,” Wampfler said. Mulling over the different music styles, he couldn’t predict a winner but had a favorite: “I hope that the hip-hop cheese will be the best.”

A panel of knowledgeable cheese tasters will evaluate whether there is a hole in this Swiss cheese experiment next March.

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