Phonosynthesis – Music from alien species

Phonosynthesis – Music from alien species

An art-science project that aims to communicate scientific content through music and interactivity

Italy | 28 May 2021 – ongoing

The project deals with a specific phenomena linked to climate change, which is the increasing number of invasive alien species (IAS). IAS have the possibility to expand rapidly to higher latitudes and different altitudes as the climate warms, and this process changes the biodiversity of the affected areas, out-pacing local species. The project aims to highlight such problems by communicating scientific arguments through artistic languages. Instead of a classic human-centric approach which is talking about IAS, I decided to let the alien plants talk about themselves, by means of an artistic sound-based interactive installation. The first step was to collect the plants, this means going out the territory, spot different species and put them in vases. Second part consisted of soldering several specific circuits led by Arduino chips and connecting those to the plants by attaching two open wires to the leaves and stems. In this way a very small electric current is passing through the plant and is affected by its conductivity. The amount of water, the wind, and human touch can affect such electric current, producing data that can be associated with different musical notes played by electronic instruments. Each alien species was assigned to a particular music instrument typical from the plant’s original country. So for instance Reynoiutra Japonica was playing Koto, while Robinia Pseudoacacia, originally from the Appalachian Mountains, sounded like native american chantings. Third step: let the plants make a concert! All the species collected have been exposed to the public outside a cafè, during the occasion of a science festival. The link between IAS and climate change was introduced before a concert made by a musician and myself “playing” the plants. Afterwards the public was invited to make the plants sound by touching them, producing a beautiful sound environment on the venue and creating perfect occasion for an informal debate on climate change.

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