A string quartet was met with a leafy ovation this week following a one-of-a-kind performance to an audience of 2,300 house plants. The performance saw the potted plants serenaded by UceLi Quartet’s rendition of Giacomo Puccini’s Crisantemi (Chrysanthemum). Held at the Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona, the special evening is immortalized by one of the more bizarre photo series to come out of 2020.
The Gran Teatre del Liceu opera house hasn’t held any performances since March in response to Spain’s lockdown measures. It’s perhaps fitting then that the first organisms welcomed to bathe in the soothing melody of Chrysanthemum should be ones willing to do away with cell phones, snacks, and idle chit chat to fully marvel in its splendor.
The vision, delivered by concept artist Eugenio Ampudia, was inspired by what he called Concert pel Biocè, or Concert for the Biocene, as his experience of nature was transformed during the Covid-19 pandemic. The performance was followed by a gift of the plants to frontline workers at the Hospital Clínic of Barcelona, to thank them for their efforts throughout the outbreak.
“I heard many more birds singing,” the artist told Associated Press. “And the plants in my garden and outside growing faster. And, without a doubt, I thought that maybe I could now relate in a much intimate way with people and nature.”
The performance, which was livestreamed, can now be viewed in the video below accompanied by soothing sweeping swathes of potted plants. But please, “out of consideration for the audience and performers, kindly switch off your mobile phones,” – if the plants can do it, so can you.
While it’s a comical sight, there may be more to playing music to plants than we realize. In 1962, botanist T. C. Singh told the scientific community that he believed his balsam plants had benefited from a growth spurt after listening to classical music. He claimed the same results were also associated with raga music, and accompaniment involving the flute, violin, and harmonium.
It seems the genre of music is significant, as research in Dorothy Retallack's 1973 book, The Sound of Music and Plants, reported that Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix didn’t do it for plants, which apparently wilted when exposed to their music. There are even Soundcloud accounts and YouTube videos dedicated to special music to play for your plants.
A more recent study published in 2014 tried to establish the mechanism behind any perceived benefit of exposing plants to music. It seemed that sound waves of varying intensities could impact cell growth, as lettuce, spinach, cotton, rice, and wheat grew from 5 to 20 percent more while “listening” to music.
Whether the potted plants will benefit from their time at the Gran Teatre del Liceu remains to be seen, but I think for now I think we should all just assume they enjoyed the experience because it’s a nice thought and it’s not like we’re hurting anyone.
If you’re more EDM than classical, you might be taken with the sick beats that resulted from this man letting mushrooms monch on a book he wrote about fungus.