Spectrograms to visualize Music of the Plants?


The creative possibilities of plant music are endless. See here how Johannes Heppner was able to visualize the sound of plants even through spectrograms.
We thank him to tell us his story below.


I spent my childhood in a small village in Eastern Germany, the “green heart of Germany”. There was not really much to do all the time, all my friends were living in other places so I could not see them very often after school. So, I spent most of my time in the nearby forests and meadows, going on adventures, climbing trees, and exploring my surroundings on my own.

Growing up surrounded by nature had a huge impact in my life, as my interest in plants started to sprout in my teenage years. The structures and details that I found on different flowers throughout the wild kept inspiring me, so I got myself a camera and started to photograph these structures. That was the kind of spark that pushed me into creativity pretty early. After finishing school, I wanted to dive deeper into photography and started working for a studio that offered me an apprenticeship. At this time, I couldn’t spend as much time in the nature as I did as a kid, and for that reason I decided to bring the nature to my home.

At first, I bought some small foliage plants and I was quite excited how well they did, they were growing well and made me really happy. It was around that time, I felt like plants would become my “new hobby”. I started to grow tropical plants, building so-called hermetospheres for them, basically closed ecosystems in a jar. It felt great to work with plants in a creative way and I spend hours over hours in garden centers, looking for new plants to add to my arrangements.

After some years in the photography business, I felt like I needed something new, so I applied for bauhaus-university in 2020. I moved to Weimar and left all of my plants behind at home, with my grandma taking care of them.

University started and I felt great since I had so much more creative opportunities. Soon I felt like something was missing in my new home, so again I started to get some plants. This time I really went serious about the tropical plants, building a small indoor greenhouse with air circulation, heating and even a humidifier to keep the air moist.  Over the months my collection grew and grew, at the moment I keep around 60 different species in my small room, so everyday waking up feels like waking up in a jungle.

In October 2021 I took a new course at university, which allowed me to do a publication about something I was interested in. It was clear to me that I needed to do something about plants. But what? After a quick brainstorm I remembered that Video I once saw on the internet, a plant connected to some kind of device, making music. I thought that maybe that could be a nice topic for my project. I wanted to make sound-visualizations of different plants. My teachers liked the idea, and so I started doing research.

I quickly found out that the device I saw on the video was named bamboo- so I got in contact with music of the plants and told them about my project. They also liked my idea and gave me the opportunity to get my hands on such a device to do recordings for my project.  They were also the nicest people ever!

After I did the recordings, I started to think of a way of visualizing my results.  I started to create spectrograms which enabled me to see the sounds. I liked the outcome and decided to go on with these, but still needed to find a way to a way to make clear that these graphic files were attached to the sound. After some time of thinking about it, vinyl records came to my mind. The physical transportation of sound and music seemed perfect for my recordings. So, I just had to connect the linear spectrograms to the look of a record, making them round and create videos of them while they spin. I found a way to make them circular and started to create the visuals. While spinning the “record”, the visual component is created in the exact moment the tone is played. So, for the viewers it looks like the sound is forming right before their eyes. In the end, I had 20 completely different circles that were unique in their sound and appearance.

You can look at all of them on my website for this project, www.twentyplants.de

I had really much fun discovering the world of plant music and I can imagine working with it in my next project as well! So, lets see what the future will bring!

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