Meet the Artist Spinning Tortillas and Potato Records

Matthew Herbert's 'Edible Sounds' isn't just food for thought, it's food for music.

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Apr 6 2016, 2:45pm

Image courtesy Richard Eaton

A thought-provoking performance piece questions the foods we eat in an unusual fashion—through spinning them like a vinyls. Matthew Herbert is a British electronic musician and composer who has apparently discovered the sound food makes. For his latest project, Edible Sounds, Herbert asks what a sweet potato sounds like, in comparison to a tortilla. This makes for a beguiling project, one that demonstrates problems prevalent within the health and food industries.

Herbert is used to creating extravagant projects—previously producing a musical performance called One Pig out of the sounds of a single swine’s life cycle, from birth, life and at death. He’s also recorded 3,255 people biting into apples at one single time. Edible Sounds follows his experimental trend as part of FED UP: Food for Future, performed at The Science Gallery, London. Officially opening in the fall of 2017, The Science Gallery is part of the Global Science Gallery Network, linking London’s Kings College to worldwide galleries to showcase scientific experimentation and research via imaginative programs. 

Image courtesy Richard Eaton

Science Gallery's Director, Daniel Glaser, spoke to The Creators Project about Edible Sounds. He says, "Too much of our food chain is invisible—we don’t know what we’re eating or how it got onto our plates. Matthew Herbert has been fascinated by making food production audible. It’s a playful concept but with very serious questions just beneath the surface. The event had hilarious moments, but also made everyone present think more about what they ate and the consequences of their food choices."

Herbert, who has an interest in unconventional music, focuses on using it to highlight social issues. As he states on his website, “When I started writing music, I did it because I could and because I liked it. As I get older these reasons become less compelling. At a time when inequality is rising to unprecedented extremes and when the system we have created is designed to destroy rather than nurture, music’s propensity to noodle inconclusively can seem unhelpful at best. Who needs diversion when action is required? However, music can’t only and always be a call to arms, it can also tenderize and engulf when comfort is needed.”

Image courtesy Richard Eaton

Edible Sounds is a project informed by the researchers at Kings College London and the FED UP program advocates an alternative outlook on diet, health, and food production. FED UP explores food issues including sustainability, sensory experience, waste, and fermentation. In Edible Sounds Herbert takes ordinary foods and amplifies the noises they make, using speaker systems and DJ turntables. Not only does he include healthy foods such as sweet potato and celeriac, he contrasts the sounds these foods make with processed foods including reformed meat, tortilla wraps, and sugar. The sounds are similar to white noise but each "edible record" creates a slight variation in music due to the food's texture.

Edible Sounds allows us to query what we eat in a very unconventional format; showing us a further dissimilarity between nonprocessed and processed foods. Perhaps if we could hear the difference between foods, maybe we'd be more inclined to eat healthily? Herbert is experimenting with just that.

Image courtesy Richard Eaton

Image courtesy Richard Eaton

Image courtesy The Science Gallery, London

To learn more about the artist, click here. Click here to learn more about the Science Gallery programming. 

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