Need A Can't-Miss Wheel Of Cheese? Try Playing It Some Hip-Hop

Originally published on March 25, 2019 3:16 pm

If you want healthy plants, some people say you should talk to them. If you want to make delicious cheese, try playing hip-hop music.

That's the finding of a recent experiment by researchers in Switzerland who set out to determine how sound waves might affect the microorganisms that give cheese its flavor.

The experiment, titled "Cheese in Surround Sound," started last fall with nine 22-pound wheels of Emmental cheese placed in nine separate wooden crates. Each assorted fromage was played one of various types of sound waves and songs, including Mozart's The Magic Flute, Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" and "Jazz (We've Got)" from hip-hop legend A Tribe Called Quest. There was also one control cheese wheel that wasn't given any music at all.

Swiss cheesemaker Beat Wampfler (left) and Michael Harenberg, director of the music department at the Bern University of the Arts, pose with a vinyl record and a wheel of Emmental.
Fabrice Coffrini / AFP/Getty Images

The cheeses were exposed to the music 24 hours a day over six months through a transmitter that focused the sound waves into the cheese wheels. When the cheeses had been produced, the milk came from the same farmers and was processed in the same vat so that the wheels would be as identical as possible.

Once the cheeses matured, they were analyzed by professional food technologists, who concluded the cheese wheels exposed to music had a milder flavor compared with the control cheese. The group also determined the cheese that was played hip-hop had "a discernibly stronger smell and stronger, fruitier taste than the other test samples," according to a summary of the experiment's findings.

A panel of Swiss chefs, politicians and artists also sampled cheese from each wheel in a blind taste test and agreed that the cheeses that were played hip-hop or low frequencies were sweeter than the rest.

"I like its flavor, and so the hip-hop cheese was my favorite cheese. ... Rock 'n' roll and techno — there was not such a big difference," Beat Wampfler, a longtime cheese enthusiast who worked with researchers at Bern University of the Arts in Switzerland to create the experiment, told NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro.

The next goal: creating another study with only the transmission of hip-hop to cheese wheels against other control cheeses in silence. Wampfler said the potential benefits could go well beyond flavor.

"The cheese can also work as a transmitter between different people who like hip-hop or who like folk or who like rock 'n' roll," Wampfler said. "So this can also help bring society a little bit together."

There's no report yet on how the sound of NPR might impact the taste of cheese.

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