The sound of nature is the trademark of Leudar Augustine, a man of about 40 or 41, maybe 42 years (he says can not remember his exact age) and he has been studying plants and sounds they emit for 20 years.
Plants may communicate with each other, not with articulated language, of course, but through electrical signals explains Leudar, who came to Santa Cruz to attend the cultural fair La Clandestina of art, creativity, talks and workshops; these electrical signals in physiology are called “action potentials” and are similar to those that produce the human nervous system and that of animals.
Leudar, born in the UK, was recently working in Brazil, in the Amazon rainforest as part of his doctoral studies at the Sonic arts Research centre at Queen’s University in Belfast.
The language of plants
Augustine’s interest in this area came when he traveled to an indigenous community in Peru; there, they sing ícaros (shamanic hymns) to relate to and understand the medicinal properties of plants.
As a result of these comings and goings to Peru for seven years Leudar concluded that maybe plants responded to the Icaros and he was interested to see if there was a scientific basis for this.
In his studies, Leudar places electrodes on the plants in a way that does not affect their natural electrical signals. He then measures for reactions to stimuli and if there are any signals the computer makes them audible. It is a method similar to that made the American Alvin Lucier in 1965, when he presented his Music for solo performer; Hence, Lucier connected electroencephalography electrodes to his head and amplified his brain waves. “Before there was a big controversy about this,” says Leudar. “In part due to very poorly controlled studies in the 60s, and 70s, which were quickly discredited. Today there is more acceptance in the scientific community, “he adds, and says scientist Monica Gagliano appeared this year to propose that plants have the ability to ‘learn’, ie they can remember.
Music in the rainforest
Augustine Leudar also makes music, but not the conventional type ringing out at radios and parties. “what I love is spatial audio,” enthuses Leudar. Spatial audio happens when speakers are used to create the impression that the source of the sounds comes from all around the listener, not just where the speakers are located.
“The sounds immerse you, I try to create things that would be impossible normally,” continues Leudar, who specializes in producing forest soundscapes.
He was the author of the sound installation “Biomes at night”which covered the Eden Project in Cornwall (UK), the world’s largest botanical garden.
“Normally when people play sounds it comes out of two speakers, but it doesnt sound the same as the rainforest; because I had lived there, I knew how it really sounded, sounds come from everywhere. We filled the place with amps and put up a giant speaker that emitted thunder sounds from above and speakers emitted imaginary sounds as well; people walked through this environment at night , and it sounded like in the rainforest. Not exactly the same as the sound emitted by million of insects, but for many it was real enough”indicates Leudar.