“Cheese in Surround Sound – a culinary art experiment”
March 14th is a big day in Burgdorf, Switzerland. That’s the day when a team of judges (expert cheese tasters) will determine whether music played in the town’s famous aging cave for 8 months had an effect on the taste of it’s Emmentals.*
This is not a joke! It’s an actual experiment being conducted at Kasehaus K3 with 10 Emmental cheeses. If it works and the cheeses are better, we may have to revise our thinking about how to age cheese. In fact, that could extend to the make room and, of course, the milking process. We think it’s fascinating!
This was an idea put forth by Beat Wampfler (53). He is, by day, a veterinary doctor specializing in horses. He works at the National Equestrian Center in Bern.
By night, he is the CEO of Kasehaus K3, a sandstone building which houses a large cave and various rooms for workshops and community events. He bought the building in 2015.
Wampfler grew up on a farm and his grandfather made cheese. In 2017, he worked with Fromage Mauerhofer which stores it’s cheeses in Wampfler’s cave to develop his own unique black cheese. It’s made with biochar to give it the shiny, black color.
Last year, when Wampfler got the idea to play music in the cave, he found Michael Harenberg of the University of the Arts in Bern, a professor of music and media art. Harenberg was intrigued with the idea and he did some research on the effect of ultrasound on solids – a field called sonochemistry. (Ultrasound is the range of high frequency sound waves that humans can’t hear.)
In chemical kinetics, it has been observed that ultrasound can greatly enhance chemical reactivity in a number of systems by as much as a million-fold; effectively acting to activate heterogenous catalysts. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sonochemistry)
Here’s a simple description from All That’s Interesting:
Sound waves, or ultrasound, might have the potential to compress and expand liquids during a chemical reaction. This is because sound, an invisible wave, can flow through a solid solution like cheese and create bubbles. These bubbles then could change the chemical makeup of the cheese as they expand, collide, or collapse.
Of course, if, in fact, the music was found to have an effect on the cheese, the big question is – what kind of music has what kind of effect?
In August, Harenberg and his students set up a controlled experiment with 9 separate boxes with 8 different kinds of music piped into them (listed below) and one box with no music.
1. No sound (reference box)
2. Ambient: Yello – ‘Monolith’
3. Classical: W.A. Mozart – ‘The Magic Flute’
4. Techno: Vril – ‘UV’
5. Rock: Led Zeppelin – ‘Stairway to Heaven’
6. Medium frequency: 200 kHz
7. High frequency: 1000 kHz
8. Hip hop: A tribe called quest – ‘We Got (the Jazz)’
9. Low frequency: 25 kHz
The Big Day!
On March 14th (6pm), we will find out how this experiment went. The cheeses will be chemically analysed “for flavour substances.” (We don’t know exactly what that means, but it was in the fact sheet issued by the university.) A panel of culinary experts will give their verdicts at a presentation and tasting event. Wish we could be there!
After he has seen the results of the judging, Wampfler may produce a ‘Musical Cheese’ to sell at the K3 website.
We will be waiting with bated breath. This could be just the beginning!
*Emmental is a form of Swiss cheese (with holes) that is normally aged from 4-14 months. There are 3 age profiles: 4 months are ‘classic,’ 8 months are ‘reserve,’ and 14 months are ‘Premier Cru.’ A Premier Cru Emmental was the first cheese from Switzerland to be chosen World Champion at the Wisconsin (USA) Cheese World Championships in 2006. There were over 1700 cheeses in the competition!
Amazing! The results of the judging were announced and the cheeses tasted better to the professionals – particularly the ones exposed to hip-hop. (click here)
Now, they will try to pin down specifically what type of hip-hop yields what type of flavor – a complicated endeavor indeed!