Can you play a chocolate trumpet?

Does the material of a trumpet affect the sound?
23 May 2023


Close-up of a dark chocolate bar.



Anna Ploszajski, you were at the Royal Institution recently, weren't you giving a talk? What was that about?


Chris Smith put this question to materials scientist Anna Ploszajski...

Anna - I was, yeah. I brought my talk 'A materials and making odyssey' to the Royal Institution. It was sort of an unofficial rebook launch for my book, 'Handmade - A Scientist Search for Meaning Through Making', which originally came out in 2021 and the paperback has just been released. And the talk really is a sort of romp through lots of different materials. And the story of the book is how I am a relatively theoretical scientist of materials in that I understood the theories and formulae about how the materials properties came about from atoms transforming that understanding into somebody who understands how materials work in the hand in the world of the craftspeople. So the story of the book and the story of the talk is really, you know, what happens if you put a scientist into a blacksmith's workshop or a glass blower's lab? How can we relate what we see in the world of craft, the world of science, and vice versa? And the wonderful team at the Royal Institution made so many fantastic demos for me, including trumpets made out of chocolate, concrete jelly and ice. And we did lots of experiments with what happens when you try to make things out of different materials.

Chris - I'm intrigued Intrigued. Did they work? Could you blow them?

Anna - They all worked and funnily enough, you can play them fine. And they all sound exactly the same because what makes a trumpet sound is the air vibrating inside. It's the shape of the thing way more than the material that it's made out of.

Chris - I can think that the chocolate trumpet would be popular for a while until it got warm and left itself all over your hands, but you might get tempted to eat the mouthpiece, the concrete one sounds like it would give you very big arms trying to lift that.

Anna - Yeah, it was very heavy to lift and the jelly one tasted delicious. Even without eating it, you could sort of taste it as you played <laugh>

Chris - Quite distracting when you're trying to make beautiful music.


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