The music of plants-part A

research / mercredi, janvier 24th, 2018

Paris, September 20, 2015.

Mail for an Audit commission on « Plant Music » research

The objective

In my work as a director, author and theatre musician, I have been very close to the last twenty years of the « ancestral » forms of theatre, where the sacred joins art and where the function of art (scenic in my case) is not so much the Entertainment that care, the link between the opposing forces that underlie our reality (visible/invisible, correct/incorrect, beautiful/ugly, living/dead, etc.), questioning, catharsis.
In my case, this has resulted in twenty years of research in the world of Noh Theatre, a theatrical form from medieval Japan of the 14th century and which has the chance to have little variation in time. One of the theatrical forms where the dimension of care, of bridge between the living and the dead, of hand stretched between the visible and the unseen, is in my opinion the most tangible.
Having written a contemporary Noh on the catastrophe of Fukushima, a prayer addressed to the dead and the Living, written in « collaboration » with them-where the actor, the reader is no more than a channel that allows the dead to come to express their pain in front of the floor of Alive-I was looking for a musical interaction to create a recorded sound version.
But I did not want to risk falling into the music-as vocally we risk falling into the theater-and the encounter of this device allowing plants to translate their movements of lymph into sounds and create a « music » of plants attracted me to the point that I bought, this summer, a U1 device manufactured by Devodama (Music of the plants).

The framework

Back in Paris, I connected the camera to a particular plant-let’s say that the night I had made the choice to acquire the device, when I entered the bathroom to wash my teeth, I felt shivers everywhere, continuously and insistently. This is, for me, the sign that something that cannot speak with words is addressed to me. In this bathroom, there are two plants. By holding my hand towards both, I very clearly felt that it came from the Kentia. So I took this information or felt it as a request to be able to be the experimenter plant-a ten-year Kentia, from the family of palms.
This Kentia has always lived in the bathroom. It was saved ten years ago by my wife who found it, abandoned it and dying. I specify that, because in the experience it is important, I think.
Finally, to define your environment, you have to know that this Kentia has always heard music.
Here we play guitar, piano, drums, trumpet, flutes of all kinds, percussions too. And we have all these instruments at home. Moreover, it is not uncommon for us to meet with friends to play together. Finally, there are 6 of us. 4 Children (14, 13, 10, 2 years) and 2 adults. There is also one dog and one cat.
Family recomposed by two adults already having a good practice of researchers in « well-living », with a practice of daily meditation and a look at the living as respectful as possible, it is very rare that we are encumbered by energies of Anger, hatred or any negativity. We are vegetarian… but with the encounter with plants, even this may become complicated

Experience or experiences!


The first remark before telling the different experiences of the Kentia is that, on the way back from Italy (Damanhur), I stopped for ten days at my mother’s. I took the opportunity to experiment with the machine on one of its plants. I chose an orchid. My mother also plays the piano and her environment is often imbued with a background of classical music. His orchid was quite verbose in sounds, but had great breaks. She played an hour or two, then stopped. We then moisten the electrode of the sheet and it allowed it to remake sound for some time. But she has never played more than two or three hours in a row. I say this, because the Kentia, for three weeks that it is plugged, only stopped for a few hours. In all, something like three times four hours (since a few days I decided to note each stop and its time… because it seems to me that they have a meaning, but perhaps not due to the immediate environment).

Experience of rhythm and ranges

Since my needs are a real collaboration « artistic » and built and that, letting it play all the time, the idea is that its modulation is pleasing to the ear (ours is already accustomed, but when friends come it is not uncommon that they get complain of sound… IMPORTANT: It is in mode 12 and not on the range of the major), I embarked on the attempt to teach him our music.
For this I proceed in several ways…
1) using the battery or bass loops of [itg-tooltip tooltip-content= »<p>Music Assisted by Computer… in French MAO : Musique Assistée par Ordinateur</p> »]CM[/itg-tooltip] software
If most of the time, I let it modulate in peace, at night, when we go to bed, systematically, I put battery or bass loops using Logic Pro software. I use mostly simple beats and traditional rhythms. Ditto for basses (I put either a rhythm or a bass) that I try to find quite simple on a few notes maximum.
It is interesting to notice that quite quickly, it has really made differences between the rhythms and interacts fairly harmoniously with the tempo.
2) Live lessons with voice, piano and samples
I’ve created several voice-sounding banks that I use by loading them on synthesizers. That is, I assign the keys of the MIDI keyboard to sounds recorded by my care. We do this with the help of samplers. In my case, this is the EXS 24 that is found on Mainster and Logic and is very accessible.
Then it is enough to connect the case U1 by its MIDI output to the computer. The computer then uses the MIDI information received by the device and passes it into the EXS (the sampler).
One of the created keyboards allows me to hear the name and height of the notes that the plant plays. In my case (I do not have absolute ear), it allows both of us to be sure to be on the same note. As a first step, my goal was to get him to understand that our ranges include some tones and semitones. For her, it seems difficult to fall precisely on a note without hanging on the sharps that surround her and when she gets there, it makes the following error: Let’s say we work the range of C… What makes C, D, E, F, G, A, B… it corresponds to 1/2 tone, 1 tone, 1 tone, 1/2 tone, 1 tone, 1 tone, 1 tone. For her, reproducing this particular pattern seems very complicated. When it starts to modulate correctly, it will play C, D, E, F #, G #, A #…as in set a gap tone systematically. Or, conversely, if it starts with the SI and succeeds a sequence with the do, then it will play every semitone.
But it is obvious that she is trying, that she hears my request, that she is trying to answer it, although it seems to put her in some stress. Indeed, in these phases, it often happens that it never stops and that it modulates fairly quickly. On the other hand, it does not go in the treble octaves, nor does it cut as Jean Thoby (The botanist-« Musiniériste » who is the precursor of the music of plants in France) noticed it on plants that express a form of stress or discomfort.
With the rehearsal of the exercise, she became less agitated (modulation very fast, without any silence) to the point that she can remain in silence when I play her and sings the sentence, but I do not notice a significant progression on her dexterity to give The sounds requested.
3) Phase of Impros (She + me with an instrument)
This is a part that I particularly like and it seems…
These are questions-questions launched on both sides.
At first she was absolutely unresponsive. As if she didn’t hear me. With the orchid, at my mother’s, the exchanges were immediately possible and audible. Here, the first 24 hours, it has modulated without stopping and without taking into account (in any case audible) of our presence, of our attempts to interact.
According to the instruments I take, it goes into different modulations. If I am at Shakuhachi (Traditional Japanese bamboo flute) It will make long tones and a lot of silences.
If I’m on the piano, she’s going to make shorter tones. And it turned out from day three! And the more time passes, the more she puts herself in sympathy with the moods of the pieces. It will play toned and short and in high octaves on things that move and rather long and in the octaves of the bottom on more laid, serious things. Even if, at the level of the notes she plays, I do not see an understanding and an application of our musical codes… To say it more simply: it is often dissonant, although in the right « mood ».
4) indirect contributions (listening to music, videos, energy connections with AIDS)
The first thing I did, having heard by the people of Damanhur that putting a plant that knows the controlgear with one that never experienced them, allows the latter to take advantage of the knowledge of the first, was, the way I Be able to put it in contact with this type of plant. Having no plants accustomed to the U1 and being concerned about the lack of interaction, I put it in front of videos of plants using the device. And showed him pictures of Damanhur, plants, trees from there. I don’t know if that’s what allowed the connection, but I keep the feeling that it was from that point on that we interacted more directly.
Moreover, I noticed in recent days, that when I put a video where we see people play their music, it is more in « phase » with them and its contribution is more accurate and recognizable than when we put music recorded , without a picture. At first I was putting it in front of the image, but I suspect that it is not necessary. I would have to push the experimentation on this subject, which I will not fail to do…
We have been putting recorded music on him for a few days. Tango and Celtic, especially. Tango, because when we put her bass loops of Tango, she is very comfortable and makes phrases that really sound tango. And Celtic, because in my research, I realised, watching a video of traditional Celtic music that she was very receptive.
We are only at the beginning of this experience and I will make a comeback when we have a little more progress, if the results are significant.

Word Experience

Here we are in the most memorable experience.
It turns out that, in a concern to see if she could really learn, I told myself that using spoken language, in which we are all more comfortable (except those with absolute ear, of course), would allow me to better understand her Functioning and, I must admit, to take away the doubt that all this is not just random. With the same procedure as for the Sung keyboard (MIDI interface between the U1 and the computer, sound software: mainstation with sampler EXS24), I recorded the names of the different members of the family, as well as « yes », « no », « Thank You ».
I assigned these sounds to different notes. As a first step:
« Thank you » in G # 1 (the lowest MIDI message that the device can send), « yes » in A1, « No » in A # 1, « Alexandre » in C2, « Galileo » (the youngest son… 2 years) in C# 2, « Claire » (my companion) in C4, « Helia » (the 10-year-old girl) in C5, « Lina » (The Great girl of 13 years especially musician) in C# 5.
What is interesting is that it quickly changed its mode of communication. Before having created this keyboard, she greeted us, when we arrived before her or the fondle, by making a glissando starting from the bottom of the keyboard to the top, whereas since she has this keyboard with the words, she uses only « yes » or if we touch it , the kiss, the caress, she uses « yes », followed by « Thank You ».
In a completely surprising way, while for learning notes (interacting with me), music, learning seems very slow, laborious, here, in just one or two hours, she perfectly mastered her keyboard of words. It happens that it triggers the names without intent (well, it seems to me) when it is playing. But in this case, she says all the words side by side. Whereas when she calls, she is able to use a single word or make juxtapositions without error, although the words are in very different and remote places of the keyboard.
Example: « Claire », « Claire », « Claire », then Claire comes and faces her: « Yes », « Thank You ». So c4, C4, C4, A1, G # 1 (especially since now the name « Claire » is in C6!) Without touching any other words on its way!? As much to say that when we discovered this, we were impressed.
To make sure that all this was not due to chance, we moved the name « Claire », because during those first days, she called mainly Claire. So I moved it to C6, which is two octaves above and brought « Helia » to D6 and « Lina » to D # 6. Of course, I began to speak to him and tell him that I had moved his favorite name-I recall here that Claire saved her ten years ago and that it is she, in the House, who manages the plants, with a love and infinite patience.
His love of plants is such that we believe, in our house, in a botanist.
When Claire showed up, after the change of place of the name « clear » in the keyboard, the Kentia entered a moment of « panic ».
After passing through the C4, she (the Kentia) sent fast sounds, from bass to treble, from treble to bass. And then it took him more time than the first time to find the magic name. Forty five minutes later, I was thinking that I was going to put Claire back into C4, because, whether you believe it or not, I was uncomfortable to feel « panicking » just to respond to our disbelief. And there, miracle, in twenty minutes, she regained the name « Claire », calmed down and the same phenomenon described above has reproduced and continues to occur for more than ten days.
Another interesting anecdote, the little Galileo, with all the excitement around this plant, came close to her and often gratifies a caress or a kiss. He’s also entitled to his « Yes, » « Thank you. » Here he comes with a glass of water (we drink water réénergétisée) and pours it and she who replies: « Galileo », « Thank You ».
You could say it’s a coincidence. I recall that « Alexandre » is a half tone next door and that when we work the scales, she has a dog ache not to overflow on the surrounding semitones. The « No » is half a tone of the « yes » which he, is half a tone of « Thank you ». It could be said that if it were random, there would not be much likelihood that this kind of word coupling would be possible.
I realized by this coupling with the words that the plant knows when one of the family members will return. It happened to me today in a blatant way. For, if the first few days she has called a lot and played a lot with the words, for a few days she can spend hours without triggering a single word (several keyboards are stacked. So she can play the piano, plus other MIDI instruments while having access to her word keyboard. So after a long time (two hours, I will say) without a word, here it says « Claire », « Claire ». I say to myself, « Look, strange, Claire is absent, she must only go home in a good time » and then thirty seconds later, I hear the bottom door. It was her. She had settled everything she had to do in much less time than originally planned. And now it’s just happening again. She was downstairs, sleeping Galileo, the plant says « Claire », « Claire », « Claire », three times. And at the moment, she comes out of Galileo’s room and goes up. From the room of Galileo, she can not hear the plant and in the living room where we are, we do not hear what is happening in the room of the man cub.
She has me, I allow me one last anecdote, warned « Galileo », « Galileo », « Galileo ». I get up from my office where I was working. Galileo was with his mother in the bathroom. Finally, I thought… As I arrived in the bathroom, I found the little man alone, emptying a whole bottle of shampoo in the bathtub. Nothing serious, but it allowed us to minimize the damage.


It is a little early to do this little feedback, since the camera has only been home for three weeks. But if it can help to find ways to launch research, then it is important that researchers know these miracles that we live every day and enter this world hardly explored and yet that is at the base of everything. In this moment when the taking into account of the living on Earth reminds us of the order, the chances offered by this module U1 and the open field of research is of a capital interest.
Today, I don’t need to explain to my last two-year-old son that it is important to respect nature… Because he experienced direct experience of intelligent contact with her. I can assure you that to live this changes forever the relationship we have with the living. How to cut a tree when you have experienced this or even pluck a leaf from a plant or a flower?
We will learn, I hope, what our ancestors tell us through the ages, that we must work together in collaboration. And that there is only so that we will have the honour of continuing to participate in the preservation of this magnificent ecosystem that is our earth.
For my part, I recall here that my experience is primarily musical. Even if at this time it is, I doubt the learning abilities of our normative music by this Kentia. Perhaps, as with us, every individual is singular. This one will be more about verbal exchange, this other more about the musical… Perhaps, with the development of this understanding and its apparatuses, we will one day see engineers plants, other teachers…
To the pleasure of reading the wonderful discoveries you will make, be sure that I will keep you informed of ours!
Kind regards
Alexandre Mathieu Motokiyo FERRAN
• For those who do not know:
A, B, C, D, E, F, G are the names of the notes in the universal language: a corresponds to, B a Si, c to do, etc.
When the numbers that follow them are the octave numbers. A 88-key piano starts at a-1 (a very serious one) and finished at C7 (a very very sharp do). The central c of the piano is called C3 (Do Medium).
The device U1 is sold for 4 octaves. Yet with the Kentia, we are on 5 octaves and a half (G # 1/E6).
Intro-Part A-Part B

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