The sounds that accompany the music below were produced by plants, bio-sensors and rocks. Each has been carefully “miked” to access information stemming from the source itself, in an attempt to co-create a sonified output from Nature.
Mille-voltages were extracted by electrodes from a plant leaf or other sensors, via custom made rate of change converter or Wheatstone bridge instruments. They were then amplified and translated from voltages into pitch-shifts. These signals, in turn, were processed by an Eventide Harmonizer. The Harmonizer allowed us to tune the sensor outputs together and to the music or sound source. The combined product was fed back to the sensor, plant or rock as musical or sonic phrase, increasing the intensity of the loop. On occasion, the results yielded very compelling soundscapes. We noticed immediately that the plants and the other sensors seemed, upon occasion (at their disposal), to pattern themselves closely to music, to the point that they appeared to actually improvise!
Later on, in 2005, we acquired the brain wave analysis hardware/software package IBVA from Masahiro Kahata. IBVA samples in the same general area as the output we were studying from rocks and plants. Masahiro helped us set up his technology and fine waterfall graphics to enable it to interpret our bio-sensors’ output and compare them to brainwaves simultaneously. In addition, we were able to add IBVA to our sonification toolkit.
We have subsequently spent great effort in closer examination of the compelling anomalies that Nature has presented us through this study, filming the best weirdness wherever possible! Both Gordon and I have become convinced that intelligent signals do arise from Nature that eludes conventional E/M interpretation. A semiotic process appears to be at work that links the observer to Nature under special circumstances. This co-creative expression of consciousness, Natural and Human, plays a direct role in the signal acquisition and generation on the recordings below!
Todd Thille and I recently returned from Maine where we completed an intensive review of the IBVA sound acquisition technology. Pictured below, it is hooked up to a large granite stone. The stone came from my grandparents old house in Jamestown. When still on the ground in R.I, I spray fitted two copper wires to each end with molten zinc, using the thermal arc spray system I employed for metalizing glass. This allowed us to sample the small mille-voltages coming from within the stone, and convert them into electronic music.
I brought the stone to Maine where it serves as a bench, but I always wanted to see whether it could output enough voltage to create a Sonoform (i.e. an electronic music composition made from the small voltages of rocks or plants). My weeks tutorial with Todd on all things IBVA and ABLETONLIVE provided the perfect opportunity.
The stone proved very active that evening, providing us with a long, uninterrupted recording opportunity, especially in the area of 7-9Hz, the area of the Earth’s resonant frequency. Perhaps that should not be too surprising, given that directly across the bay are 26 enormous towers, (the most powerful VLF transmitter in the world ). Purportedly used for submarine communications, the towers likely broadcast on frequencies that pass through the earth, possibly being picked up by the stone.
The evening, pictured left, has me at the desk of the Maine studio with the IBVA receiver pictured in the foreground, in front of the door. Outside, about 40’ away, in a direct line of sight, sits the rock, with the IBVA transmitter fitted to the leads. It was a magical evening, during which a mysterious ‘duende’ appeared, animating the surroundings. (Duende is a Flamenco term that describes a mysterious, creative force of Nature that spontaneously appears and permeates the performance, but only, it is said, in the most private of settings.)
Not discernable in the recording is the contribution of our friend Henry Platt. I asked Henry, who is at once a fine musician, music teacher and designer of retro electronics, to come up with a desktop tube amplifier and speaker set for us to experiment with. His design has the purpose of rendering the sounds from the plants and rocks in the purest and simplest manner to the ear. Would these finely rendered sonics carry something more from those unusual sources to our perception and imagination? For my money, the system certainly adds value on both counts. The Full Monty of electronics, room, locale, company and attitude factored into the evenings sublime quality. More about the amplifier and speaker setup.