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Music from Agaves and Corn DNA?
By Dominique Bayne, Former Senior Horticulturist on Oct 10, 2008
Last night I decided to check out the Digital Nature event here at the Gardens. My understanding from Rachel's blog was that it was a digital art event with a focus on how technology does not have to be separate from nature. I really did not know what to expect but ended up attending what was probably the coolest event we have ever had here at the gardens.
What was great was how the Gardens were not only the host for this event but were integral to the art presented. One artist recorded the sounds of the wind moving through the golden rain tree, converted it to light and projected it back onto the tree. I enjoyed all the artists but my favorite was Ten and Tracer - he had literally created music from plants.
Digital music is something I know little about, so I asked a few questions. The artists do not use instruments to create the music in the traditional sense but instead record sounds and then alter them and layer them to build up what something that can only be described as music and yet is not music in any traditional sense.
Ten and Tracer (aka Jonathan Canupp) records sounds from many different sources. In his performance last night were sounds that were recorded from an agave (Agave scabra 'Green Goblet') that was grown here at the Gardens. The Agave had out-grown its space and was being discarded. Its core of tightly curled leaves was rescued from the compost by a friend of Jonathan's; he recorded the sound of the leaves when they were unpeeled and torn. Equally interesting, Jonathan explained how he used the gene sequence of corn DNA to create some of the other parts of the music. We were actually listening to parts of plants that I never thought it would be possible to hear. This was all complemented by a projection of time-lapse photography of some of the weirdest plants out there - many of which we grow here at the Gardens.
The other part of the evening that struck me was how well it fit our core values of transformation, relevance, diversity and sustainability. Not only were plants transformed into music but Mitchell hall was transformed from a familiar lecture hall to an atmospheric performance space with the help of an incredible sound system and well implemented lighting. The group of people was diverse, I would estimate at least 75% of them had never visited the gardens before last night and integrating technology and nature could not be more relevant right now. As for sustainability? You could look at the bigger picture of getting more people to appreciate plants through different media and thus connecting them to their environment as a whole, or, you could just say that the cups were compostable. Either way it was a great evening - thank you so much to everyone who was involved in organizing it.