The audible language and singing of plants

T.M. Glass and the audible language of plantsDid you know plants make music? I found that out today when I stumbled on an exhibit of digital photographs by T.M. Glass, hosted at Ontario College of Art and Design University gallery space on Richmond Street. The enormous photographs are breathtaking. From ten feet back, they look like perfectly composed photographs (which they are). Floral arrangements spring from exquisite vases, usually set against a black backdrop. But up close, the images have been digitally manipulated with miniature swirls that recall the undulations of Van Gogh.

Part of the exhibit includes a timelapse video of flowers blooming, accompanied by “Duet for Pansy” by Canadian music producer and composer Bob Ezrin. Ezrin hooked up electrodes to the leaves of a pansy plant. The device he used translated the electrical impulses into sound. Then he jammed with the results to create a dreamy, ambient wave of sound. Very peaceful, perfectly embodying the calm, deep purple petals of the pansy.

Little did I know that Ezrin has a long, distinguished history in the music business. He has worked around the world on recordings, TV, film and live event production with a wide variety of artists including Andrea Bocelli, Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, Alice Cooper, Lou Reed, U2, Jay-Z, Peter Gabriel, Aerosmith, Rod Stewart, Nine Inch Nails, and Pete Seeger.

Who Else Makes Music with Plants?

Ezrin isn’t the only one using plants to create music. In 2018, Winnipeg artist Helga Jacobson created a plant symphony. She assigned different plants to different sections of the orchestra (e.g., viola, French horn) based on their sonic characteristics. In Los Angeles, sonic artist Mileece makes plant-based music.

The evidence that plants can sing started forty years ago, when researchers at the Damanhur Federation of Communities near Turin in Italy started studying plant communication. They developed a device that can read the electromagnetic vibration of a plant and translate it into music. The machine reads the plant’s pulse, then uses an algorithm and a synthesizer to turn the pulses into sound. You can find out more information at Music of the Plants. The organization also has posted their plant music on Sound Cloud.

You, Too, Can Listen to the Music of Your Plants!

Ezrin used an instrument called the MIDI Sprout. Paired with the MIDI Sprout App for iOS, the device allows you to listen to your plants play harmonious sounds designed by a team of artists. Each MIDI Sprout comes with two probes that measure changes in electrical currents across the surface of a plant’s leaf. Their technology converts these fluctuations into note and control messages that can be read by synthesizers and computers to generate music and even video.

Next time you pass a bed of tulips or a hedgerow, keep in mind that they are singing their own personal songs. Strange and beautiful songs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.