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.