The Uncooperative Collaborator – A Sound Performance searching for
intelligence in domestic plants and analogue electronics. By Jesse Hallaway
and Brian Leach.
Any signs of intelligent life? We’re looking to our favorite house plants for the answer. Or maybe analogue electronic circuits can express themselves. In this performance we’re searching for intelligence where science and art meet horticulture and music.
Jesse Hallaway, is transforming electrical signals in plants into real time sounds. The soloist of the ensemble, he affects electrical pathways, not only in live electronics, but in living materials.
Brian Leach, musician and sound artist, has built a new electronic instrument inspired by the drone sounds of ancient string instruments. Interacting with this custom built musical synthesiser becomes a search for emergence with the possibility of machine becoming man and maybe, man becoming machine. This is a rhythm section unlike any that you’ve ever heard before.
The third collaborator is our plant, Pachypodium Lamerei, winner of the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit. Hailing from Madagascar, the plant has been given agency through facilitating it’s internal natural processes to produce sound. It is our uncooperative collaborator, having pulled less weight than it’s human counterparts in rehearsals. Can it hear us? We can certainly hear it. Perhaps it’s the humans who are not cooperating…
Could these seemingly simple interactions between resistor and capacitor, root and leaf lead to an emergent entity?
Agency and Emergence
This 10 minute performance is an exploration of agency: an action by an
autonomous entity producing an effect, and emergence: higher-order complexity arising out of interactions between simple systems.
We have here a conversation between three collaborators, Jesse will be using his plant based digital electronic systems, Brian will be using his hand made analogue synthesisers. Pachypodium Lamerei will be acting autonomously, it’s electrical impulse data being sonified via an Ardiuno.
Meet Cactus Theriminus, the Theremin Cactus, we’re not sure what it’s thinking, but it seems to know when we’re getting too close for comfort. Coerced into the ensemble, it has been converted to act as an antenna in a Theremin circuit. A sort of musical proximity sensor, played without touch. Electromagnetic energy is stored between the performer and the plant, travelling back and forth in an electromagnetic field. This is always happening all around us, but here we are measuring it and sonifying the data.
Can’t a plant express itself? Can a human join this conversation?
This performance puts human cognisance on the same level as the cognisance of plants. The intention is to give perspective on our existence by humbling our human influence, while elevating a plant’s credibility as an agent in society.
The Uncooperative Collaborator shows new ways of interacting with sound, new connections between organic life and digital hardware, and new sounds from outside the realm of human constructs. If there is an intelligent message within these systems, we’re listening.