Exactly one year ago today, Local Spins featured Tom Wall and Cosmic Knot’s groundbreaking florganoleptic music. After finishing in the Top 25 at ArtPrize, we revisit this ‘jamming with plants.’
EDITOR’S NOTE: Local Spins first spotlighted Cosmic Knot frontman and West Michigan guitarist Tom Wall’s “playing music with plants” project in October 2020. This fall, his plant-based ArtPrize entry not only mesmerized audiences in the international art competition but finished in the Top 25. Here’s the updated story for Local Spins Rewind.
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Tom Wall says it’s impossible to predict what might happen musically when your duet partner is a living plant.
“You can’t pinpoint what a plant’s gonna do. You almost have to have it open for improvisation all the time,” said the guitarist for the West Michigan rock band Cosmic Knot.
“It plays very melodically. I guess it’s almost ballad-ey in a way. It’s very interesting, it’s very open, very inspiring, very uplifting.”
Wall should know.
He’s part of a new wave of interest in the technology, spending the last year or so experimenting in the studio and on stages with a device that channels “music” from an aloe vera, a Norfolk Island pine and other plants.
Wall does it by using a device that – after connecting electrodes to the root and leaves – transmits and converts the plant’s electric impulses into notes and sounds.
And while various proponents and researchers have used devices sold commercially by places like Music of the Plants (based in Italy) and PlantWave (based in California) to generate plant music, Wall is one of the few to make a plant a member of the band in recording sessions and performances.
“It just seems to rock with us,” insists Wall, who calls it “florganoleptic” music. “The possibilities are basically just endless. We’re literally just tapping into it.”
VIDEO: “Plant Song,” Cosmic Knot (Dogtown Studios)
This fall, Wall made his project an official ArtPrize 2021 entry, installing his “Musical Plant Garden” at Sundance Bar & Grill in downtown Grand Rapids. It was an impressive hit with fans and ArtPrize visitors, eventually being named one of the international art competition’s Top 25 exhibits with the most visitor engagements.
“It’s been an incredible journey,” Wall conceded on Facebook during the final days of ArtPrize, noting the exhibit even helped bring his whole family together for a photo.
“Plant music may be a strange way to get everybody together, but is always great when it happens. Even jammed with my dad, the plants and trees and the two guitars I built.”
Wall said listeners are transfixed by the music, which feels meditative, atmospheric, relaxing and somewhat reminiscent of trance-like electronic dance music.
“The crowds are always just baffled by the fact that it’s even possible,” he conceded, noting one fan was nearly brought to tears by the music. “Every time anybody hears it, they just kind of stop when I’m doing a duet with this plant.”
Wall isn’t a stranger to boundary-pushing, musical concepts. Cosmic Knot’s 2017 debut album, “Inner Space,” featured jammy, groovy and psychedelic music with instruments tuned to 432 Hz (as opposed to traditional A 440 tuning) that some say has a healing effect on listeners.
After being awarded recording time as a winner of Grand Haven’s Walk the Beat competition a couple of years ago, Cosmic Knot’s follow-up album – featuring “multiple plant tracks” – was recorded in December at Third Coast Recording in Grand Haven.And yes, he eventually plans to tour with a plant as a special guest star.
Wall noted that he’s gotten numerous offers to tour and play his florganoleptic music at events in the United States and Europe. Cosmic Knot even scheduled to perform with a plant at the 2020 Electric Forest until that festival was canceled due to the COVID pandemic.
“The florganoleptic thing came about from so many aspects of my life converging into one,” said Wall, noting he suffered four car accidents and had his musical gear stolen all within a single year after release of the band’s debut album.
After he recovered, he “finally scraped enough money together” to purchase a Music of the Plants device and, voila, a new “florganoleptic” musical project was born.
“The results … were beyond amazing,” he recalled, noting he’s also experimenting with light shows sparked by the plant-based performances. “From there, I realized I had a serious connection with plants and music.”
Read more about plant music in these stories:
VIDEO: Cosmic Knot wsg Aloe Plant (Third Coast Recording)
Read about another regional musician’s ArtPrize entry here: Musician Eli Kahn makes ‘escape to our dreams’ a unique ArtPrize experience
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