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Cultivating sound from plants at Assiniboine Park Conservatory

Cultivating sound from plants at Assiniboine Park Conservatory  ·  Source: gearnews.com/Shutterstock

Assiniboine Park Conservatory in Winnipeg is closing down to make way for a new development which includes “Canada’s Diversity Gardens”. It’s a bittersweet project that sees the hundred-year-old Conservatory pulled down and many of the plants will not survive the transplant to the replacement facility.

Winnipeg visual artist Helga Jakobson asked if she could record the plants before they are gone. To perhaps in some way create a legacy for the plants and the space they lived.

Using special equipment Helga harnesses tiny electric currents and uses computer software to convert them into sound. She’s using these sounds to create a symphony.

“It’s a very sad, sad symphony, it’s very low key, low energy and very melodic and I can’t help but wonder if that’s because the plants know that their time is ending here.”

Helga uses crocodile clips attached to leaves to detect the currents. The bioelectric capacity is then allocated to musical notes within the software. She has enlisted the help of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra to work the plants into sections of orchestral voices. It’s unclear whether the resultant recordings will end up being played by the orchestra, but it seems to be implied. Which would be great rather than some of the cheesy synthesized sounds you can hear in the video.

This feels similar to the MIDI Sprout project from Data Garden and more recently the amazing Scion from Instruo which brings plant electricity into modular synthesis.

“It’s a way of letting a plant to express its internal life,” – “I’m really hoping that it’ll be a good dedication to them. I want them to be able to speak for themselves.”

That sounds like a beautiful thing.

More information

  • Assiniboine Park Conservatory CBC article

Video

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