Day of the Triffids – Making Music With Plants

New Kickstarter gadget enables plants to make music

Words by Ryan Stephenson, Monday 18 Apr 2022


It may sound like science fiction, and to a certain extent, it once would have been. But we’ve recently just taken delivery of an exciting bit of kit we invested in by Kickstarter, that allows completely generative music to be created solely using plants. Yes, plants…

The device turns a plant’s biorhythms into music through the use of electrodes attached to the surface of leaves or stems. Minute changes detected in the conductivity of the plant’s surfaces create small electrical messages which are graphed algorithmically and translated to pitch via MIDI. These MIDI messages can then be subsequently played by any MIDI compatible instrument or sampler – hardware or virtual, creating music.

What makes the device so intriguing is its ability to create infinitely evolving soundscapes that genuinely feel like an organic musical performance. It never feels binary or artificial. Much like a pianist can control the tone and timbre of a piano through their fingers, the plant itself can be performed with a similar level of nuance and detail by touching or moving the leaves, or even via shining light sources – particualrly UV light wavelengths at it, creating beautiful bursts of reactive sound from the plant.

The simple, tactile and unpredictable nature (excuse the pun) of performing with plants in this way makes it super accessible for all and Creative Director Paul even had his eight year old son in the studio to perform with the plants! 

We love left field thinking here at The Futz Butler, thus this neat little bit of gear was the perfect addition to our ever expanding toolbox of noise generating contraptions. Take a listen to one piece Paul created recently using nothing more than just a small snake plant (affectionately named Sharon) run through some custom virtual instruments he had designed and built previously. The sound is entriely produced by the plant.  

We’re already considering how we can hack the device and use it in a variety of scenarios it wasn’t intended for, such as hooking it up to skin, hard drives or servers and other electronic devices.

And who knows… maybe Sharon will be making a guest appearance on one of our next musical creations very soon…

Posted by
Studio Engineer

Monday 18 Apr 2022

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