For our March Cog Night we watched Matthew Herbert play with his food at King’s College London’s Science Gallery
Stood at the front of Guy’s Chapel, Matthew gave a friendly introduction to the experiments he had been undertaking along with Dietetics and Health scientists at King’s. He explained how he wanted to use sound to explore the ideas of good food and bad food, bringing our attention to the effects of what we consume everyday. His work on this project had been truly experimental – practised without known outcomes; trying, failing and trying (it transpires that you cannot make a vinyl record out of Bacardi Breezers however much help you have from the experts at King’s.)
Matthew then took his place – in front of a veiled statue of the crucifixion of Christ and behind a pair of turntables. He sat the stylus into the groove of the first vegetable slice. It gave out a screech as the needle scratched over the vegetable’s fibres. The turntable’s rotation highlighted the variations in texture as you heard the needle repeat over the same material producing a perfectly timed rhythm. Matthew shouted the name of each ‘record’ change (“sweet potato”), as he considerately faded between one vegetable’s ripping voice to another. Each example did have a familiar scratch but also its own characteristics – Matthew having a fondness for the ‘ravey’ aubergine.
In 2005 Matthew personally contracted himself to the rules ‘No drum machines, no synthesizers, no presets’. A vow to generate new sounds and give equal rights to accidents within a composition. These rules were not broken here. As well as a range of sliced vegetables, we were played a record of sliced cheese and Matthew even demonstrated the distinction of Taste the Difference ham slices. The final records were set of sugar. The team had tried to record Matthew’s voice into them but it was indecipherable. As the performance neared its end, the sugar records were shattered into bowls and offered to the congregation to consume.
Following the musical performance, Matthew discussed the experience with Dr Daniel Glaser, the Director of the Science Gallery. This fascinating inclusion gave a greater context to Matthew’s performance. Matthew has an interest in industrial food production, the heavy consumption of refined sugars and its impact on our health and medical services. His music became a memorable point to catalyze reflection upon our food choices.
A short release of records pressed on to tortilla are available.