Hogsback Symphony with PlantWave

This is something different.

In July 2014 I had my first experience of plant sound – it was Dan Fox’s installation ‘Harmonica Botanica’ at the Cragside gardens in Northumberland. I just loved the concept and sensation of hearing a laurel plant grow. Eight years have passed since then but I recently discovered – to my delight – that plant sounds can be recorded using the PlantWave developed by Data Garden. I quickly ordered one but it took a while to get to me from Santa Monica. The unit was shipped successfully to South Africa from the USA but then vanished into the South African postal service never to be seen again. Fortunately the wonderful people at PlantWave sorted out an insurance claim for me and so I instructed them to send me another – this one went to Jeannie in Sweden where I collected it in September. 

I started experimenting in the beautiful autumn weather we had there: beside lakes and streams, in forests and the old orchards of Dalarna. I quickly learned that some plants are continuously musical whilst others have long pauses. If you play the mushrooms track you’ll hear a 30 second stream of sound. The marsh grass is also continuous but with big peaks and diminishing sustains. Bojken is a centuries old apple tree we visited in the old orchard at Gamla Staberg – it also has some loud pulses of sound that were perhaps stimulated by the warm autumn weather.

PlantWave recording of Mushrooms, Dalarna, Sweden.
PlantWave recording of Marsh Grass, Dalarna, Sweden
PlantWave recording of the ancient apple tree Bojken at Gamla Staberg, Falun.

Since returning to South Africa I’ve continued recording and – following a recent trip to Hogsback – I composed this four minute symphony. It features a blend of five plants into one soundscape. There’s moss, a fern and a calla lily recorded right next to a fresh flowing stream at Wild Fox Hill. The Yellowwood and White Stinkwood were both young trees recorded on a forested hillside one soft drizzly day. I made a video of the recording reel and blended in a sequence of my Hogsback landscapes to harmonise the soundscape with the landscape.

Hogsback Symphony

Over the next few months I’ll be working with Harry Owen integrating selections from his most recent poetry collection Thicket with soundscapes and landscapes. So watch this space!

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