Harmonies of Flavor: How Music Affects the Taste of Cheese

A block of Emmental cheese.
Recent studies suggest that exposure to various genres of music can influence the maturation process and, ultimately, the taste of cheese. (Image: via Shutterstock)

The origins of cheesemaking are not definitively known, but evidence suggests that the practice began with the domestication of milk-producing animals, such as sheep. Archaeological findings, including remnants of cheese and cheesemaking tools in an Egyptian tomb, indicate that this craft dates back at least 4,000 years. Cheesemaking involves a precise process of combining bacteria with milk, and despite its ancient history, the field continues to evolve, presenting both enduring mysteries and new opportunities for discovery.

Recent innovations in cheesemaking include unique experiments, such as investigating the impact of music on the maturation process of cheese. In 2018, Swiss cheesemaker Beat Wampfler initiated a study to determine whether exposure to different genres of music could enhance the flavor profile of aging cheese and identify which type of music might produce the most delicious product.

Wheels of cheese ‘listened’ to different kinds of music

Beat Wampfler worked with researchers from the Bern University of Arts. They placed nine wheels of Emmental cheese in separate wooden crates in Wampfler’s cheese cellar. Then, using mini-transmitters, they fed each crate with a different genre of music on a 24-hour loop. 

Man holding a wheel of cheese.
They placed nine wheels of Emmental cheese in separate wooden crates and exposed them to different kinds of music. (Image: Shutterstock)

Here’s the music that each wheel of cheese “listened” to:

  • The “classical” cheese matured to Mozart’s The Magic Flute
  • The “rock” cheese aged to Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven
  • The “ambient” one listened to Yello’s Monolith
  • The “hip-hop” cheese bounced to the beats of Jazz (We’ve Got) by A Tribe Called Quest
  • The “techno” crate was exposed to UV by Vril
  • Serving as a control, one wheel of cheese was left to sit in silence

The remaining three wheels weren’t exposed to music, but different high, medium, and low-frequency sounds. This was done to learn if music specifically influenced the taste of cheese or if just any sound would do.

How different kinds of music influence the taste of cheese

After six months of listening to non-stop music, the cheese was subjected to lab analysis and a taste test by food technologists. They discovered that the cheese that had listened to either music or sound had a milder flavor than the one that had been left to age in silence. In addition, the musical cheese had a distinct texture and appearance compared to the non-musical cheese.

Hip-hop cheese was considered the tastiest by most tasters. According to Wampfler, the cheese that listened to hip-hop music was “remarkably fruity, both in smell and taste, and significantly different from the other samples.” (swissinfo.ch)

Cheese, grapes, and walnuts sitting on a wooden table.
The ‘hip-hop’ cheese was remarkably fruity in smell and taste. (Image: via Shutterstock)

However, taste is subjective and some tasters preferred the milder flavor of the “classical” cheese. Swiss celebrity chef Benjamin Luzuy was among those who loved the Mozart cheese.

“My favorite cheese was that of Mozart; I like Mozart but it’s not necessarily what I listen to… maybe a sweet little classical music it does good to the cheese.” (phys.org) Luzuy said the differences he noted were noticeable regarding texture, taste, and appearance.

But does music really influence cheese flavors, or was it all in people’s heads? Scientists believe it’s plausible that sound waves can affect the taste of cheese, but say that more research needs to be done. 

The man behind the experiment, Wampfler, said that in his experience as a cheesemaker, all kinds of things can affect the flavor of cheese, including temperature, humidity, and nutrients. So it’s not farfetched that sounds can also change the texture and taste of cheese.

The future of musical cheese

The musical cheese shows how age-old traditions and modern curiosities can converge to unlock unique flavors. Next, Wampfler hopes to experiment with different kinds of hip-hop music. He sees a future where cheeses are marketed based on the music they “listened” to.

Others like Chef Luzuy believe this experiment opens a window of culinary experiments and exploits. 

“For chefs like me, these results are fascinating. This opens up new avenues for us in terms of how we can work creatively with food in the future,” Luzuy concludes. (mixmag)

Follow us on XFacebook, or Pinterest

  • Nathan Machoka

    Nathan is a writer specializing in history, sustainable living, personal growth, nature, and science. To him, information is liberating, and it can help us bridge the gap between cultures and boost empathy. When not writing, he’s reading, catching a favorite show, or weightlifting. An admitted soccer lover, he feeds his addiction by watching Arsenal FC games on weekends.