Music from plants
A few years ago I became aware of devices that had been developed to pick up electrical frequencies emitted by plants and turn them into music.
I have put together a kit that I can take to any location and connect to plants and trees. The first public installation of this was in summer 2018 as part of Chelsea Fringe festival in London. It was located at Phytology, a cultural institute based at the Bethnal Green Nature Reserve in Tower Hamlets, East London.
I became artist in residence on the site for the week of the Chelsea fringe, demonstrating the devices and talking about connection with plants.
As part of the residency artists put a poster on the billboard within the site. I have listed as a poem all these attributes plants have now been scientifically proven to have. The most recent one is Monica Gagliano's study that proves plants have memory.
There are a few different devices available but I use one called Midisprout developed in USA, recently renamed Plantwave, which has a delightfully low tech cardboard casing surrounding the battery powered sensor. This detects slight electrical variations in a plant via two electrodes placed on the leaves or on the branches or trunk of a tree.
These variations are graphed as a wave and converted to midi data. Other characteristics of the wave change the textural qualities of those sounds. This data can be read by a synthesisier which I have on the phone or ipad, which converts it into musical notes. Another ipad converts it into a visual display. A small speaker adds to the quality of the sound.
As part of the installation I arranged perfomances with musicians to see how the plants would react. This was with guitarist Alex Lewis who played with the Mother-in-law's tongue and a hazel growing at the site. Plants react and respond to many environmental influences including sound vibrations so patterns and melodies change in relationship to fluctuations in the environment, different plants create quite different melodies in the same environment.
I also demonstrated the device at a Forest School on the site, where children touched the plants and got a reaction.
The music creates a sense of wellbeing in people and the fact that a usually silent plant is able to make its presence felt generates Biophilia