Music for Plants
My Book/eBook: Electronic and Experimental Music, sixth edition, Routledge 2020.
My Podcast: The Holmes Archive of Electronic Music
In this episode, we feature electronic music created for, inspired by, or generated by plants.
The following music was created as a stimulation for plant growth, sometimes based on the “latest” scientific data and in keeping with the artist’s interpretation of that data. Or simply, inspired by plants but not actually based on any science whatsoever.
1. Mort Garson, “Rhapsody in Green” from Mother Earth's Plantasia (1976 Homewood Records). Moog Modular Synthesizer, all compositions, and performances by Mort Garson. Produced at Garson’s Patchcord Production in Hollywood. One of the last great Moog Modular Albums before the onset of polyphonic and computer-controlled synthesizers. The album had a very limited distribution upon release, only being available to people who bought a houseplant from a store called Mother Earth in Los Angeles or those who purchased a Simmons mattress from a Sears outlet, both of which came with the record. From the liner notes: “Full, warm, beautiful mood music especially composed to aid in the growing of your plants.” “It has been proven beyond any doubt that harmonic sound waves affect the growth, flowering and seed yield of plants.” (Dr. T. C. Singh, Dept. of Botany, Annamalai University, India)”
2. Jerry Cammarata, “Opus 1000” from Plant Serenade (1975 Jerem). "A Collection Of Tonal Experience For Your Lawn, Vegetable Garden And Exotic Plants.” Electronic frequency tones to stimulate plant growth. Yes, this record was actually released. It shows a violin player and some house plants on the cover. But the sounds are purely electronic. Each of the seven tracks features a tone of a different frequency. That’s it. It is apparently based on theories in the book The Secret Life of Plants (1973, Avon), for which a film was also made a couple of years later and inspired Stevie Wonder to create his more musical soundtrack of the same name (1979 Tamla). From the line notes: “You are encouraged to provide a program of good nutrition to your plants during your stimulation program with this album.” “Pure tones, particularly those in the higher range, have been more aggressively used in recent years to stimulate plant growth because they apparently change the physiological state of the plant and permit it to function in a accelerated manner.”
3. Baroque Bouquet, “Moses on a Raft” from Plant Music (1976 Amherst Records). Music by Baroque Bouquet; produced by Tom Shannon, Tony Di Maria. This album refers to various academic studies linking music to plant growth, coming to the conclusion that music which departed from loud, percussive sounds and toward harmonic, uniformly structured forms, such as baroque music, was ideal for plants. From the liner notes: “Within the limitations we have described, it appears that growing plants respond both toward and away from contrasting sound energies introduced into their environments.” We know our music will stimulate a favorable response within your growing plants.”
4. Vale of Pnath, “Heart of the Deep Forest” from Hymn of the Plants (1998 Self released). A self-released, single-sided cassette by American independent artist Dale Tomel.
5. Burkard Schmidl, “Part 04,” “Part 05,” and “Part 06” from KlangGarten Vol. II (Music For Plants And Humans) (1993 Innovative Communication). Music for a special project commissioned by the IGA Expo 93 in Stuttgard, the international gardening exhibition. This was one of the tracks of music composed for the SoundGarden portion of the exhibit, presented using a 12-speaker system in a garden setting. This track is one of 16 released on an exhibition CD.
6. Marco Madia, “Photosynthesis” from Music For Plants (2013 Dewtone Recordings). This Canadian release is by Italian electronic music producer Madia, based in Berlin since 2006.
7. Modern Biology, “Swordfern in the Morning ((Raag Bhairavi)” from Plant Music Vol 1 (2021 Self-release). Modern Biology is a Vancouver based artist who bioelectricity, Indian raga, and analog synthesis. He says, “This is not science, this is art. I think of these pieces as sketches of some of the plants in my environment. All tracks were recorded live, in nature, in the northern Gulf Islands of British Columbia.”
8. Joshua Bonnetta, “Cactus (Cactaceae Sp.)” from The Folklore of Plants Vol. 1 (2017 Folklore Tapes). A UK compilation of short compositions around local plants of the southwest region of the England. Researched and executed by 31x artists. This is one of them.
9. Zoe Naylor, “Nettle (Urtica Dioica)” from The Folklore of Plants Vol. 1 (2017 Folklore Tapes). From the UK compilation of short compositions around local plants of the southwest region of the England. Forty-page pamphlet included plant-lore and illustrations from artists and herbal medicine section by herbalist Zoe Naylor.
10.Mary & David, “Rowan (Sorbus Aucuparia)” from The Folklore of Plants Vol. 1 (2017 Folklore Tapes). A UK compilation of short compositions around local plants of the southwest region of the England. Devon Folklore Tapes is an ongoing research, storytelling and musical project covering and soundtracking the folklore of the southwest county of Devon in volumes of tapes housed in bespoke books. Exploring mysteries, myths, legends, and strange phenomena of the old county.
11.Mice Parade, “Guitars for Plants” from Obrigado Saudade (2004 FatCat Records). Performed and recorded by Adam Pierce.
12.Paul Chihara, “Logs XVI” from Tree Music (1970 CRI). Bass, Bertram Turetzky; Moog Modular Synthesizer and Buchla Modular Synthesizer, composed by, Paul Chihara. Realized at the electronic music studios of UCLA. “Logs XVI was so named because it was the sixteenth “take” in the recording studio. Meaning that this is a real-time performance by Chihara using two famous modular synthesizers, the Moog and Buchla. Douglas Leedy was also recording in this studio around that time. The end of the previous work, “Driftwood,” is heard first before it blends into the electronics of “Logs XVI.” The piece uses bass previously recorded, remixed, and modulated using the synthesizers. Chihara was inspired by trees and made this homage to their lifecycle.
The following music was generated by plants, using electronics, amplification, and audio processing.
13.Plasma Palace, “Music of the Plants” (2013 Self Release). Created with a device called Bamboowhich is connects directly to a plant, perceiving its electromagnetic signals and translating it into musical harmonies. This recording was made with two Bamboo devices connected to house plants. I guess you’d call it a duet.
14.Shane Mendonsa, “Lavender (Generative)” from Plant Music (2021 Digital release). “Lavender” is a Generative Music performance featuring a Lavandula angustifolia. The Plant is connected to the Eurorack modules and the Moog synthesizers through a biofeedback sensor which distributes the data from the plant to the instruments allowing the plant to the instruments. The pulsating Bass is a result of the Raw data output from the sensor that is modulating the Pulse width on the Moog Oscillators. More about Shane’s plant music can be found on his website.
Jerry Baker, “House Plants” from Plants are Like People (1973 Lion Records). With the appearance of popular books around the subject of house plants, came the inevitable audio recordings to accompany them. This is a spoken word album by “America’s Master Gardener.”
Maria Sabína, Excerpt from the “Mushroom Ceremony Of The Mazatec Indians Of Mexico” (1957 Folkways).
Opening and closing sequences voiced by Anne Benkovitz.
Additional opening, closing, and other incidental music by Thom Holmes.