To be honest, humans are a pretty bad audience. If they’re not coughing or talking, they probably have their noses on their phones. For once, on Monday, the Grand Theatre of Liceu in Barcelona put on a performance of Puccini’s “Crisantemi” for a completely different audience, hundreds of beautiful plants, silent, they.
A reconnection with nature.
Unfortunately, the accompanying press release makes it clear that the concert was intended for human (not plant) observers, describing it as “bringing us closer to something as essential as our relationship with nature”. The opera’s promise to donate the plants to 2292 frontline health care workers further confirms the project’s fundamentally anthropocentric goals.
It’s not like the plants can’t hear a concert. A growing body of research indicates that plants are more perceptive than many people think, reacting to sound, smell and even touch. At the same time, extraordinary claims about plant sensitivity, promoted by pseudo-scientific works such as The Secret Life of Plants in 1973, hang like a black cloud over the field for decades.
Plants have ears.
Based on dubious experiments with a polygraph, the best-selling book suggested that plants liked some types of music more than others and could read the minds of humans. Once implanted in the minds of the public, a number of plant-themed musical works arose from this absurdity, including Mort Garson’s Mother Earth’s Plantasia, an obscure and fascinating album of wild synthesizer melodies released in 1976.
There is no scientific evidence that plants know what you think, prefer classical music to rock n’ roll, or can, say, read an article on the Internet like this one. Still, it is fun to imagine a world in which an artist can connect to something as patient and reassuring as a plant. Wouldn’t it be so much easier to express oneself if no one else was involved in the conversation ?