Some people are of the opinion that hip-hop music stinks. Scientists have shown this to be true – but in a good way.
Researchers from Switzerland’s Bern University of the Arts HKB – in collaboration with a famous cheese maker genuinely named Beat Wampfler – exposed cheese to different strains of music, to establish whether sweet or sour harmonies influence flavour and aroma in the ripening process.
To wit, eight 10-kilogram wheels of high-grade “Muttenglück” Emmental (the one with holes in it) from World Cheese Championship winner Antony Wyss were hooked up to mini transmitters which pumped tunes into their curds around the clock for eight months.
Cheese with ‘yoh!’ in it won the day
The playlist included Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven, Mozart’s Magic Flute opera and A Tribe Called Quest’s We Got (the Jazz) Buggin’ Out – as well as various high, low and medium-frequency tones, and some ambient and techno tunes that no one has ever heard of.
A ninth wheel of cheese was allowed to ripen in peace and quiet.
In two separate blind taste tests, A Tribe Called Quest – a hip-hop ensemble, in case you’re not down with it – was found to ferment the most flavoursome profile, having a discernibly stronger smell and stronger, fruitier taste.
Very odd when you consider the tune’s lyrics
Rough, rough, rugged
Tough like a nugget
“We did two surveys, a scientific one, and another with a jury of culinary experts,” said Peter Kraut, deputy director of the music department at the Bern arts university, as quoted by phys.org.
“Both came to the conclusion that there are differences – there are differences in taste and in the smell, according to the music with which the cheese has been refined.”
The experiment was named “Cheese In Surround Sound – a culinary art experiment” and the brainchild of Dr Wampfler, a veterinarian by day and cheese-maker by virtue of mania.
“The bacteria did a good job,” Dr Wampfler said during the presentation of the results. The sensory analysis revealed that the cheese that was exposed to hip-hop was “remarkably fruity, both in smell and taste, and significantly different from the other samples”.
Some international reports suggest he is now looking to market musical cheese – and he has reportedly fielded requests from people asking him to produce cheese influenced by music as diverse as Balkan folk songs and AC/DC.
Meanwhile, there be mo’ trials
The university is planning another experiment, exposing cheeses to other hip-hop artists to see which ones they respond to the best – if only because the experiment generated so much publicity.
Still a bona fide scientific question has arisen: for some reason, the hip-hop cheese had notably large holes – or “eyes” as cheese-makers call them.
Ordinarily, this is considered a bad result – mainly because it makes the cheese hard to cut. But it poses a challenge to the prevailing theories as to why Swiss cheese varieties such as Emmentaler and Appenzeller end up with holes in the first place.
Once upon a time there was a fairy tale about mice chewing the holes into existence. For more than a hundred years, it was thought that bacterial gases – notably carbon dioxide – put bubbles in the curd as they fermented.
Recently there was the idea that tiny bits of hay stuck to the milking bucket were to blame.
But if hip-hop causes bigger bubbles, is there a sonic reason to be explored? Maybe. But scientists don’t appear to like the sound of the idea.