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Archive for January, 2018

Harvard University Ex-centric Music Studies Conference

Next February 2nd, I’ll be doing a presentation entitled “Botanical Rhythms: A field guide to plant music” at the conference Ex-centric Music Studies at Harvard University. This presentation is included in the panel “Relocating research: the core of practice” chaired by Vijay Iyer. The conference will explore subjects, methods, and modes of presentation that have been deemed ‘peripheral’ to music studies, and aims to offer participants an opportunity to present projects that might exceed the bounds of academic convention.

Friday, February 2 at 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM EST
Holden Chapel, Harvard Yard, Cambridge (MA)

 

Botanical Rhythms: A field guide to plant music

ABSTRACT – Plants are the most abundant life form visible to us. Despite their ubiquitous presence, most of the time, we still fail to notice them. The botanists Wandersee and Schussler call it plant blindness, an extremely prevalent condition characterized by the inability to see or notice the plants in one’s own environment. Molly Roth And JimOur bias towards animals, or zoochauvinism, has been shown to have negative implications on funding towards plant conservation. Authors argue that artistic practices that engage plants in a sensorial and meaningful way can potentially generate emotional responses and concern towards plant life. This presentation reviews musical and sound art practices that incorporate plants and discusses the ethics of plant life as a performative participant. Starting in the early 70s, Music to Grow Plants By became a small footnote in the history of recorded music. However, it showed how the veiled nature of plants became attached to personal narratives, tastes and social values. In parallel, avant-garde movements interested in amplifying the noises of everyday life started to appropriate the sounding materiality of plants through contact microphones. John Cage’s amplified cactus became an icon of indeterminacy music. Plant-based generative music attempts to take a step forward into the inner life of plants by translating their biological activity.

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Creative chains linking plants, technology, music and touch can be found in site-specific installations and performances by artists like Mileece, Miya Masaoka, Michael Prime, Leslie Garcia and the collective Data Garden.

The recent blooming of plant bioacoustics studies and acoustic ecology have inspired artists to sonically explore plant matter combining artistic and scientific points of view. In the midst of a strong movement to revitalize the role of plants in the field of humanities, concerns related to plants ethics and performance with plants are being debated. The sonification and acoustic amplification of plant life evoke both a sense of connection and the realization of an ontological fracture. However, the act of listening to plant life can be an act of acknowledgment, a possibility for emotional identification and empathy, rendering plant life visible.

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