Album ReviewsReviews

Internal Garden

This review first appeared in issue II of Ex Abyssō.

We some­times talk to our plants, not expect­ing them to talk back. Per­haps to make them grow, to soothe them and ourselves. But what if the plants did talk, and we just don’t know how to listen?

Justin Wig­gan attuned him­self to the mes­sages sent by plants. His setup com­bines a device that trans­forms elec­tro­mag­netic mes­sages from the body of plants into midi sig­nals (Music of the Plants) with a haptic feed­back device (SUBPAC) to fully immerse him­self in the plant sig­nals and so pion­eer a new form of inter-spe­cies (or inter-king­dom, even) com­mu­nic­a­tion.

Wiggan’s trip­tych of musical col­lec­tions released on Bogus Col­lect­ive chart some of the res­ults of his musical exper­i­ments with this setup. The res­ult is, in a way, aleat­ory music. He does not know what the plants will ‘say’ before­hand, he merely holds up the equi­val­ent of a micro­phone. This is a just a dif­fer­ent kind of field record­ing, then, but with an addi­tional mod­u­la­tion.

The music is by nature mono­phon­ous. It is the dif­fer­ent choices of midi instru­ments and effects that give each track an atmo­sphere of its own, those choices likely the res­ult of Wiggan’s own feel­ings dur­ing the record­ing, his con­tri­bu­tion to a dia­logue or duet, if you will.

On the first album, he inter­acts solely with indi­vidual plants—cactus, basil, etc.—introducing us to the concept and dis­play­ing a range pos­sible sounds.

On the second, plant and (fic­tional) spa­tial con­text are integ­rated. While dia­logue­ing with the plants, Wig­gan trans­ports him­self, and hence the con­ver­sa­tion, to the apart­ments of Rick Deck­ard and Éric Satie. The more famil­iar kind of field record­ing returns here to provide an aural medium for the spa­tial con­text.

The third album brings new par­ti­cipants into the con­ver­sa­tion: birds. Wig­gan looks for sim­il­ar­it­ies between bird­song and plant­song, and integ­rates the two in his record­ings.

The most recent and fourth album is ded­ic­ated solely to cacti, and fea­tures some of the most exten­ded record­ings to date.

While the pro­ject is espe­cially inter­est­ing from a con­cep­tual view­point, regard­ing its con­tri­bu­tion to pos­sible under­stand­ings of com­mu­nic­a­tion and con­nec­tion across vastly dif­fer­ent bio­lo­gical cat­egor­ies, it is also a sat­is­fy­ing col­lec­tion of ambi­ent music, the purest form of #plant­wave I’ve come across yet.