Posts Tagged ‘music for plants’

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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Harvard Graduate Music Conference
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Good Things Mag is a documentarium series founded by Victoria Stöcker in Monterey, California. Each issue explores a theme through a number of art forms (articles, collage, photography, illustration, essays, poetry, etc). In Issue 2 (June 2017), Victoria gathered several contributors to reflect upon all the things we can learn from plants from a variety of viewpoints, such as the life of the tallest trees on Earth or the first plant harvested and consumed in space. I contributed to the article Plant Music with the collaboration of Victoria and Evan Crankshaw from the Flash Strap blog. In this article we survey the history of plant music and review the different ways in which musicians and sound artists have been using plants to create music.

Michael Prime, Mileece, Miya Masoaka, Joe Patitucci, Magz Hall, Mort Grason, John Cage and Roger Roger are a few of the artists included. Plant music practices are divided into generative music by plants, vegetative music by plants, music for plants and music about plants. The article expands on and updates some of the references featured in Zepelim’s installment Plant Consciousness and Communication

Good Things We Learn From Plants is a beautifully curated magazine full of gems about plant life and plant related art. You can order a copy here or visit Victoria Stöcker’s page here.


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