Wednesday, October 6

"Plants and music. In a wacky book, The Secret Life of Plants,
a claim is made in all seriousness that plants are "tuned to the Music
of the Spheres" and react sensitively to music. An Indian authority
has testified that by playing ragas to an appreciative audiences of
asters, petunias, onions, sesame, radishes, sweet potatoes, and
tapioca he proved 'beyond any shadow of a doubt that harmonic
soundwaves affect the growth, flowering, fruiting, and seed-yields
of plants.'

"An American horticulturist piped some music into greenhouses,
claiming it caused his plants to germinate more quickly and bloom
more abundantly and more colorfully. A Canadian botanist played
a recording of Bach's violin sonatas in his garden, with the result
that despite the poor quality of soil, wheat grew better than in the
richest earth, demonstrating conclusively that 'Bach's musical
genius was as good or better than material nutrients,' Inspired by
these experiments, a botanist in Illinois played a recording of
Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue for some plants; they 'sprouted
earlier than those given the silent treatment, and their stems were
thicker, tougher, and greener.'

"The acme of scientific experimentation with the harmonic life of
plants was achieved by a mezzo-soprano who was a regular
soloist at Denver's Beach Supper Club. She played the taped
musical notes C and D on the piano every second, alternating
with periods of silence; as a result, her African violets, drooping
at first, began to flower joyously. No lover of rock 'n' roll, she
successfully proved that squashes hated rock music so much
that they actually grew away from the transistor radio broad-
casting it and even, in their desperation, tried to climb the slip-
pery walls of the greenhouse. On the other hand, the cucurbits
curled around the radio speaker broadcasting Beethoven and
Brahms. When she exposed corn and zinnias to rock music,
they grew in abnormal shapes and finally withered and died.
Plants subjected to the sounds of 'intellectual, mathematically
sophisticated music' reacted with such enthusiasm that they
bent toward the source of the music at angles of more than
60 degrees, some of them entwining the loudspeaker. Well,
Victor Hugo heard a tree sing when bathed in light, 'L'Arbre,
tout pénetré de lumière, chantait,' but then, he was a poet."

--Nicolas Slonimsky, Lectionary of Music
[New York: McGraw Hill, 1989]

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