Harmonica Botanica

Dan Fox with his work Harmonica Botanica by Barry Pells Electrode on a leaf (photo credit D.Fox)

The ingenious creation of artist Dan Fox… Harmonica Botanica is a wonder to behold. Quite simply, it is a magical musical plant – displayed in a pot beneath a bronze dome, whose growth is monitored digitally and converted into delightful music.

As the plant grows the music constantly changes and never repeats. Visitors behold an evolving score of tinkling music boxes and deep gongs as they experience the unique event of hearing a plant grow before them.

The piece is the work of Cumbrian artist Dan Fox and is located in the Fern House at Wray Castle April 13 until 21 May. The Fern House is an ideal setting for Harmonica Botanica as it has big windows and a glass roof, allowing plenty of light to reach the plant and help it grow.

So, how does it work?  Electrodes clipped to the leaves and roots of the plant pick up changes in resistance as the sap rise. This data triggers music samples. The music varies depending on atmospheric conditions, temperature and the time of day. The bronze dome acts as a speaker that reflects the music back to the plant.

Harmonica Botanica was originally created in 2014 for LUX, a series of commissioned installations for National Trusts’ Cragside House in Rothbury, known as a place of a place of invention and experimentation as it was once the home of Victorian engineer William Armstrong, and the place where he brought his own ideas about energy, light and electricity to life.

Carrying this idea into the 21st century, Harmonica Botanica exudes innovation and exploration and is set to bewitch the Lake District.

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