Fermentophone: New musical instrument made from fermented fruits


Fermentation is an ancient technique for preserving food. The process is still used today to produce foods like wine, cheese, sauerkraut, yogurt, and kombucha.

Besides delivering tasty food, the process can now revive our ears as well as the brain by dealing with music.

Based on the exploration of Joshua Rosenstock, associate professor of interactive media and game development and the humanities and arts, it turns out that the fermentation process can be used to create spontaneous melodies. Rosenstock has built several art exhibitions called Fermentophone to show how fermentation can make music.

Rosenstock said, “It’s a project I’ve been working on for five years. It is an open art with a fortuitous result.

How does Fermentaphone create music?

At first, different fruits and vegetables are placed in glass jars and fermented over time. Like fermentation starts, the yeast – or bacteria – in the food feed on the sugars in the food, resulting in the release of carbon dioxide bubbles.

The release of these bubbles or burps, which is picked up by underwater microphones. A computer processes the sounds and, using calculations plugged in by Rosenstock, electronic music is created.

Rosenstock calls Fermentophone “an open art with a fortuitous result”. Credit: Worcester Polytechnic

Rosenstock and Fermentophone will be heading to the Harvard Museum of Natural History on Saturday February 8 for their I

Influenced by the idea of ​​improvisation in jazz, Rosenstock imagines the Fermentophone as a creative partnership between itself and microorganisms. He sets up the pitch and tune of the music. However, microbes – and how gradually or quickly they ferment – control the rhythm of each note.

Rosenstock noted, “Different foods provide different furrows. Fruits, which have more sugars, tend to have a more vigorous pace, while vegetables, which have less sugar, are more chewy.

Visitors can watch the Fermentophone "burp," then listen to those burps turn into music.
Visitors can watch the “burp” of the Fermentophone, then listen to the burps turn into music.

“Light and temperature can influence the speed of fermentation, as well as the music that results from it. The more heat and light in the room during fermentation, the more activity there is.

Rosenstock said, “And, for those wondering, you can technically eat fermented foods. My food is food, after all.

“The same microbes that help make delicious foods and drinks are also an important part of the human microbiome. I hope to use the music of Fermentophone to draw attention to our symbiotic relationship with our microbial partners.


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