The Evolution of Plant Music

Peruvian Art

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Suzanne Simard, forest ecologist at the University of British Columbia has been studying old trees in forest ecosystems and how they communicate with other trees through root systems. These ‘Grandmother’ trees transport nutrients through root systems, to younger trees when they need it. How does an older tree know when a younger tree needs these nutrients? It is a complex system of chemical as well as subtle electromagnetic communication through their roots and a giant network of fungi, some of which are mycorrhizal fungi that have a symbiotic relationship with these trees. The whole of the forest is connected by this ‘network of fungal threads and Simard’s research reveals that when a Grandmother Tree is cut down, the survival rate of the younger members of the forest is diminished.

Our ecological understanding of plants has deepened over the last fifty years to discover that they are not only able to communicate with other trees and plants in their community, but we can hear their communications and electrical activities through sound sensors.

Dr. Ashok Khosla’s research on plant consciousness and music brought people’s attention to show that all life forms have some level of awareness and consciousness and how deeply intrinsically human consciousness affects all life on this planet. He gave a demonstration to show this with an electromagnetic experiment on plants. Research has found that plants react to their surroundings and they also communicate with one another. Light, water, sound, and even emotional energy within a room that a plant is placed in, all cause significant alterations to the plant’s electrical current. As Dr Ashok Khosla, explains that each plant also has its own unique sound signature, or its own ‘song’

How does the electro-magnetic plant device work? Based upon a device originally developed by Volney Mathison, back in the 1940’s, it works by using a Wheatstone bridge, which is an ultra-sensitive circuit that can detect the slightest change of electrical resistance in the plants and translate them through sounds or lights also connected to the circuit. These electrical signals may be one millionth of a volt.

All living organisms, whether mammals, amphibians, or plants, have subtle electrical signals running through their body, we are electromagnetic beings. In humans, the brain communicates through the nervous system to control organs, our brains, limbs and sight, using weak electrical charges. As recounted by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird in their 1973 book ”The Secret Life of Plants”, several different scientists had conducted such experiments. You connect two receivers of the circuit, one to the root of the plant and the second to a leaf. They then connect the meter to a trigger, a voltage-controlled synthesiser or similar device. The change in the plant’s electrical resistance controls the pitch, volume and filtering if the measurements are translated through sound synthesis, as the plant responds to what it is sensing in its external environment and what is happening around it.

Now that people are beginning to understand how plants read and respond to their environment, we begin to understand that plants have a kind of consciousness as they even react to what we are going to do before we do it, or to our emotions, many experiments have shown this. Norman Lederman was the true pioneer of reading plants that way and he put on the world’s first live plant concert in quadraphonic sound, at the Kreeger Music Building’s, McDonald Recital Hall back on April 17th, 1974.

The Damanhur Plant Consciousness Project

Forty-seven years later, there is a thriving community and industry based on plant consciousness and plant medicine, we now have Plant consciousness conferences where researchers share their latest findings and innovations. The influence of technological development has created many new innovations for producing music from plants, another expanding niche in the music and sound healing industry. Plant music is a way to engage young children and the young generation in ecology and consciousness, to bring awareness on how everything has consciousness, and intelligence doesn’t necessarily related to having a brain, even if the organism doesn’t necessarily have a brain, it still responds and interacts with other living organisms with some sensory awareness of what is happening in its surrounding environment.

by Carlita Shaw

Excerpt from- Lessons To Be Learned From Forcing Plants To Play Music

Now, through bio-sonification devices like Music of the Plants and PlantWave, plant enthusiasts can open channels of communication with their plants, conducted in the trending language of ambient noise. The plants can sound as if they are making an ambient tune.

The resulting plant music can be used in a variety of ways – musicians can mix it into their songs, yoga studios can put it on in the background of shavasana, art galleries can play it as installations. But Plantwave’s primary mission with plant music is to foster an awareness of plants as living organisms. “I think some people are very aware that plants are sentient beings that are, arguably, making decisions for themselves and responding to their environment — but for a lot of people that’s not something they think about every day,” says Jon Shapiro, product development manager of Data Garden. “It does allow people, and it has allowed me, to look at other life forms and appreciate their aliveness in a different way.”

But their aliveness isn’t necessarily human, so saying that plants “play instruments” is more a figure of speech. “Plants don’t sound like flutes,” Shapiro says. The consumer version of the invention includes sensors that issue small signals through the plant, measuring variations in electrical resistance between two points within it. “The variation in the connection is largely related to how much water is between those two points, which changes a lot as the plant is moving water around while it’s photosynthesizing,” Shapiro said. “Then we graphed that change as a wave, and then we translate that wave into pitch, so then essentially we’re getting a stream of all these pitch messages coming from the plant.” The pitches then enter the device’s software, which features different electronic instruments — the flute, harp, piano, guitar, bass and some synthesizers among them — that you can elect for the plants to “play,” then scaling them to be harmonious. A symphony (of sorts), generated by algorithms and leaves.

Like people, not all plants are naturals. Some are too small or delicate to measure, and a large tree might only bring about a few notes — so it’s ideal for the (millennial-preferred) healthy, glossy houseplant. And even so the sound will vary a lot, and not simply based on the species of plant. “Even within the same species, even within the same plant, depending on what two leaves you choose,” Patitucci says, “the fluctuation between two points in the plant will be different within every single plant.” “For me, one of the most exciting things about it is not about necessarily finding a specific signature sound from one plant, but to get familiar with what the patterns are with this plant.” The music often shifts with changes in light, time of day, oxygen levels, and even in response to movements in the room, something Patitucci notices when he leads yoga and meditation classes to plant music.

So, have we found a way to commune with our plants, transcending species and genus? In a word, no. The sounds are human-generated, even if they’re responding to internal changes in the plant. Though plants do make sounds — but not to communicate with us.

The sounds they make are responses to things in their environment or their internal workings–stuff moving around and processing inside of them. Frank Telewski, a plant biologist at Michigan State University, notes that plants make sounds related to plants make sounds related to external factors like wind, and also to “the cavitation in the hydraulic pathway resulting from tiny bubbles forming in the xylem. Neither of these sounds are made intentionally by the plant to communicate, but they can indicate something about the plant’s structure or physiological status.” He compared it to the noise your stomach makes when hungry — a message, but not communication in the way we think about it.

Patitucci said that at Data Garden, they try to stay away from anthropomorphizing the plants too much. “I think that a lot of times when people think of plant music, when they first hear of it, they think, will it sound like death metal in this case or classical music in this other case? Will it tell you if it’s mad at you or sad?” he said. “It’s really important to understand that these are beings that are living in another dimension.” This is a paradox of sorts about plant music: the imposition of a human scale and pitch allows us to be more aware that plants are living, but it might make us think they feel like us, even when they don’t.

Still, as with a rumbling stomach, human-generated plant music can tell you something. When Patitucci was traveling in Thailand, he asked his roommate to water his plants. From a distance, he tuned in to listen to them—and one of them was playing the same note over and over. A few days later he checked in again and the same thing was happening. “I texted my roommate, ‘how are the plants doing?’ And he said, ‘Oh they’re doing great, really healthy’ and I asked, ‘Could you send me a photo?’ And all the plants were really happy except that one plant, a peace lily, which needs a lot more water, and its leaves were drooping. So I could tell that, over a long period of time and from a distance, just by listening.”


Sophie Hagney

Source NPR

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