The art collective Data Garden have developed new technology called MIDI Sprout, a programme that enables you to convert the biofeedback of plants into beautiful ambient synth music. And its programmers have vast ambitions for the project – they want MIDI Sprout to infiltrate homes, parks and stages across the world.
Here's how it works: you wire up a plant to the hardware, which then gauges the electrical signal of a leaf and converts its energy reading into MIDI, transferring it to a series of software synths. Changes in the biological processes of the leaf (e.g. a reaction to light in its environment) is assigned a random number that corresponds to a MIDI note, allowing the data flow to be read as MIDI – and in the process, creating an electronic composition.
"It all started with watching The Secret Life of Plants and freaking out," Data Garden member Jon Shapiro told Dazed. "That book and film have so many inspiring examples of scientists hooking plants up to biofeedback technology in an attempt to discern something close to consciousness. We also took inspiration from the later movement of artists collecting data and converting it into MIDI signals to control synths. So the idea was to take the concept of plants playing synth and turn it into a compact and portable performance practice. We want plants on stage and even for them to go on tour if they want."
So far, Data Garden have toured their installation to museums, concert veues and parks, and are keen to espouse the therapeutic effects of biofeedback art on people, describing MIDI Sprout at work as essentially plants "playing the room".
"We see a future where people will monitor the activities of their house plants and even the energy of a room using MIDI Sprout technology," Shapiro says. "It's always welcomed enthusiastically because it’s converting the atmosphere and energy in a room into audible music that reacts to what’s happening in real time."
Data Garden are now raising funds to commercially produce MIDI Sprout. Watch their Kickstarter video below to watch the technology in action:
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