Matthew Herbert:
Hear What You Eat 

In 2015 Matthew Herbert was working on The Music (published by Unbound, in partnership with Whitstable Biennale, 2018), about the formidable and profound revolution in music that is “somewhere buried in the last 100 years between the invention of the microphone, the tape machine, the sampler and the computer. Why use a violin when you can use the sound of a lawnmower? Why use a lawnmower when you can use the sound of the explosion of a bomb in Libya? The book is a kind of manifesto for sound that makes this shift explicit.”

A key chapter of the book, Presto, focuses on food:

“the sound of crushing of garlic under a thick knife in the kitchen of a caravan in a single, loud, curt, dry bang is immediately followed by a snipping off the end of a small plastic tube of liver pate on a beach. a repeated regular stabbing with a fork of the plastic cover to a ready meal by a nurse on a night shift follows and on the last of the punctures, and exactly in time, a mechanic slips and accidentally bangs a wrench against a large empty copper vat at the heineken factory in amsterdam. it makes a big, echoey, metallic clang which we listen to die away beneath the road noise. a cargo aeroplane is overhead.”

Hear What You Eat was a very special kind of dinner party which came from some of the ideas explored in Presto. Over the night, MC'd by food writer and restaurant manager Thomas Blythe, guests were served a special menu devised by Herbert and Sykes. During the meal, Herbert discussed his works One Pig and The Music, the impact of sampling on music and listening, and how books might give access to sounds we could never otherwise hear. Guests were recorded eating two of their courses: a 'slurp' course and a 'silent' main course, and Herbert was joined by food historian Polly Russell and Bee Wilson, author of First Bite.

Matthew Herbert is a prolific and accomplished musician, artist, producer and writer whose range of innovative works extends from numerous albums (including the much-celebrated Bodily Functions) to Ivor Novello nominated film scores (Life in a Day) as well as music for the theatre, Broadway, TV, games and radio. He has performed solo, as a DJ and with various musicians including his own 18 piece big band all round the world from the Sydney opera house, to the Hollywood Bowl and created installations, plays and opera. He is the creative director of the New Radiophonic Workshop.

Buy The Music or a limited edition copy of Presto at our shop

Part of Whitstable Biennale 2016 - The Faraway Nearby


Filmed by Reynir Hutber at the Horsebridge Centre, Whitstable (the ground floor of which had temporarily become the Biennale hub and restaurant, The Long Table, the outcome of the collaboration between Matthew Herbert and chef Rosie Sykes), 12 June, 2016.