Monday, May 11, 2009

Sensing Plants and Sounds from Salad

What does a plant think when you go near it?
Why not put a brainwave sensor on it and ask?

Thanks to the ingenious programming of Jay Anthony Allen, moral support of Brian Heller, and sample crunching of Preston Wright we can now find out. I have three electrical sensors: a Biowave (brainwave EKG set of electrodes), proximity and turn knobs. These send MIDI data to my laptop that can be mangled and interpreted by a custom MaxMSP patch. The output triggers a few hundred samples derived from our vegetable recordings, hopefully in interesting ways.

Tests so far are promising and whether the human gardener or plant itself are wearing the sensor there is a reaction when the plan is touched. I am tweaking the dials and optimizing the samples so that effect is amplified. I will also try different plants to get better electrical conductivity from their stems and leaves; the small philodendron is fine but maybe a huge Bird of Paradise would be more dramatic. I imagine the xylem flowing up the tubes has some electrical capacity...

Here are some more pics of sound sources we have recorded:
Watermelon drums (tap on the outside and record with a contact mic), or bring the two halves together for that clip-clop effect;
Two boxes of whole grain spaghetti make for a full throated rattle;
Onion skin = super crinkly

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