As we all know, “Weird Al” Yankovic built his career on songs about food. “My Bologna.” “Eat It.” “Lasagna.” The rejected “Live And Let Die” parody “Chicken Pot Pie.” But what would happen if food itself could make music? Enter Milwaukee musician/writer Adam Michael Krause. The former Group Of The Altos percussionist and current Marielle Allschwang collaborator recently took up a strange but fascinating project: recording the sound of corn seedlings making clicking and popping sounds in response to frequencies between 200 and 300 Hz. Adjust your best-of-the-year lists accordingly.
But we kid: this is pretty cool stuff! On the wonderfully titled When Plants Sing: Writings And Recordings Concerning Plant Bioacoustics And The Importance Of Not Anthropomorphizing, Krause captures the faint but unmistakable sound of corn seedlings responding to sound. Here’s a video for side A, “220 Hz”:
And here’s the B-side, “216 Hz”:
In an accompanying essay, Krause explains his methodology:
The Australian biologist Monica Gagliano has done extensive research on plant bioacoustics. Through her work, I learned that in the presence of tones between 200 and 300 Hz, young corn roots generate clicks and pops within that same range. With two corn seedlings in a glass jar—both 14 days old and 8 cm high—plus a small speaker playing a constant sine wave, piezo contact microphone buried in the soil, preamp, and recording device, I was able to document the sound of corn responding to sound. For the first recording, I played the plants a 220 Hz sine wave, and did a second session the following day with 216 Hz. With headphones on, sitting still, trying not to create any vibrations that would make it to the microphone or change the outcome, I felt like I was at a séance—listening for knocks to emerge from the ether. They emerged, and were a haunting but pleasant surprise every time.
When Plants Sing: Writings And Recordings Concerning Plant Bioacoustics And The Importance Of Not Anthropomorphizing is available now on 7″ vinyl (!), and comes packaged with the complete essay. Weird Al’s “Livin’ In The Fridge” has suddenly taken on a whole new meaning.