Sam Cusumano could barely contain his excitement as he watched two of his friends listen to a couple pairs of apples. That’s right, they were listening to apples.
It was all a part of his Electricity for Progress exhibit, showcased at the Philadelphia Art Alliance in April. The apples were just one application of what he refers to as “biodata sonification,” which basically means using technology to turn the bio-rythms of natural objects into sound.
“I’m trying to encode very complex data streams using sounds so we can understand the data on a human level,” Cusumano said. “It’s a way of extrapolating these data signals so we can perceive them.”
The second floor of the Art Alliance emanated with ethereal, looping music produced by a pair of plants. The technology is called MIDI Sprout: electrodes are attached to the plants, and they pick up subtle fluctuations in galvanic conductance on the surface of the plant’s leaf. These fluctuations are translated to MIDI using Cusumano’s MIDI Sprout, and the signal is then input to a four-track MIDI sequencer. The same MIDI Sprout technology was used on the apples.
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“It’s a very dynamic, expressive method of getting information from a plant [that] seems like it’s just sitting there doing nothing,” Cusumano said.
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