New Zealand-based monger Calum Hodgson, also known as Curd Nerd, has a serious thing for heavy metal staccato. “A loud distorted palm muted open E turns me on,” he says.
Hodgson also loves cheese. He started playing guitar, he explains, “in homage to the fromage of my metal gods.”
Fueled by a dual passion for curds and tunes, Hodgson began pondering ways to combine his interests—and found global inspiration. In West Dorset, England, the BBC Singers ensemble recently achieved perfect concert acoustics amongst wheels of aging cheddar. In Lower Austria, wheels of hard, aged cheese Grottenhofer Auslese mature at the Heiligenkreuz Abbey amidst a constant stream of Gregorian chanting. (“In this vibratory atmosphere,” reads the website of a local milk producers’ association, “is created a special cheese with many valuable substances that give the hungry human body a good and orderly life.”)
Hodgson began to wonder: Can music influence cheese maturation?
Recent findings support the notion that bacteria can pick up external signals—that they use senses, much like humans do. Could microbes in cheese, perhaps, “hear” music? There’s also the supposed connection between human consciousness and the molecular structure of water. In his famous work, Masaru Emoto exposed glasses of water to music, words, and photos before freezing them and chronicling the result using microscopic photography. He concluded that water exposed to “positive” music resulted in visually-pleasing crystals.
And so Hodgson teamed up with Phillippa White from Sentry Hill Organics to age a little sheep’s milk bloomy rind called The Cheese With No Name, blasting a constant stream of heavy metal into the maturation cellar.
When guests finally conducted a taste test comparing the metal-infused cheeses with control cheeses, they described the heavy metal batch as more “nutty.” Hodgson has another tasting note: The heavy metal batch was drier, he says, “perhaps on account of the vibrations.”
The monger admits that the experiment should be a bit more structured with a larger sample size to yield scientifically significant results—but either way, the experience of tasting itself is interesting. “The prejudice at play to a musical style automatically exhibits a new sensory experience” for the taster, he says, “whether the cheese ‘listened’ to the music or not.”