In 2014, sound artists Joe Patitucci and Jon Shapiro designed the Midi Sprout, a small gadget that gently attaches to a plant leaf and translates its electrical currents into soothing, ambient music, reports Wired. Described as a “biodata sonification device,” the $220 product garnered more than $33,000 on Kickstarter and by 2016, the device was ready for market.
Fast-forward to 2019: the new iteration of the device called PlantWave is adding to a culture of overwrought millennials who are countering their loneliness and lack of fulfillment with plant parenting.
The search term “#midisprout” yields hundreds of posts on Instagram featuring horticulture enthusiasts enjoying the multi-tonal tunes created by their “plant babies.” In one clip, a woman lightly kisses a plant, which responds to the disturbance with a peculiar “womp” sound.
At the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs, Calif., cacti are dotted with probes that together emit a symphony of new wave compositions — part of a Data Garden installation, the touring exhibition by Patitucci and artist Alex Tyson began in 2011.
PlantWave technology works by recording the plant’s biofeedback data and transforming those fluctuations in electricity into ethereal hums produced by a synthesizer. Environmental changes such as wind, light and human touch may bring variations in pitch, tone and rhythm, and some plants sing louder than others.
According to Shapiro, sun-hungry plants are “the most light-sensitive substance on the planet.”
“They are finely attuned to frequencies of light that we can’t see because the visible light spectrum is so small compared to the entire spectrum of light,” he tells Wired. “We encourage people to think about what frequencies of light we are, as humans, emitting that a plant could pick up on that we may not be able to perceive directly.”
It sounds like woo-woo nonsense, but studies do show that taking time to be one with the natural world boosts happiness and well-being. And that emotional exchange goes both ways, according to a remarkable experiment that showed how plants are weakened by insults. PlantWave users already know this and are relishing the opportunity to commune with plants on a deeper level.
Wrote one plant music fan on Instagram, “Today while harvesting the last of her fruits from the plum tree she serenaded us with her song.”
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