Columnist

Dave Molter is a freelance writer and Golden Quill and Keystone Press Awards winner. He also is a freelance musician in the Pittsburgh area.

I’m a musician, so stories involving music and its effects on people intrigue me.

For example, on Christmas Day 1989, Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega holed up in the Vatican Embassy in Panama City after U.S. troops invaded the country. After surrounding the building, troops began bombarding it. With music.

“I Fought the Law” by the Clash and “Panama” by Van Halen were among the ditties played at excruciating volume, 24/7. Noriega surrendered on Jan. 3, 1990. Almost “The 12 Days of Isthmus!”

In 1993, during the 51-day standoff with the Branch Davidians cult and its leader, David Koresh, government forces played pop music – including Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’.” Koresh didn’t surrender, but I have to wonder if those involved in the siege don’t wake up screaming, “Are you ready, boots? Start walkin’!” in the middle of the night.

As a more personal example, let me offer up the tale of what happened after my band’s three-hour gig two weeks ago. As we packed up, the club owner began playing various hits by Talking Heads on the jukebox. Rather loudly. This we could take. But for the last 10 minutes of our hourlong labor, someone switched the jukebox to hip-hop. After 2 minutes, I was ready to tell them not only where I had hidden the microfilm, but also the PINs to every credit card I own and my mother’s secret recipe for potato soup. I seem to recall the drummer’s hands around my throat at one point. I woke up at home; I don’t remember how I got there.

So I understand the effects of music on humans. But what about the effects of music on inanimate objects?

Like cheese.

Researchers in Switzerland decided to determine how sound waves might affect the micro-organisms that give cheese its flavor. (Apparently they had run out of things to add to a Swiss army knife.) So they placed nine 22-pound wheels of Emmental cheese in nine separate wooden crates. Each wheel was produced from the same vat of milk under identical conditions to limit the possibility of environmental variations affecting results. Researchers exposed each wheel to separate sounds and songs – including Mozart’s “The Magic Flute,” Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” and “Jazz (We’ve Got)” by hip-hoppers A Tribe Called Quest – around the clock for six months. Subjected to no sounds or music as a control, one cheese stood alone.

After maturing, the cheeses were analyzed by professional food technologists. (I believe there is a degree offered by DeVry University.) They concluded that the wheels exposed to music had a milder flavor than the control cheese.

So, music hath charms to soothe the savage Brie.

But wait! They also determined that the cheese wheel bombarded with hip-hop music had “a discernibly stronger smell and stronger, fruitier taste than the other test samples.”

So when I say that hip-hop music stinks, I have the backing of the scientific community.

Of course they are Swiss scientists.

Their theory may be full of holes.

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