Sound Artist Mileece On Making Electronic Music With Plants

The latest episode of Motherboard‘s Sound Builders features sonic artist and environmental designer Mileece, who creates music with electronics and plants.

Mileece’s work uses a combination of sensors and software to sonify plant biofeedback. 

Show Summary:

Mileece’s background as an audiophile and programmer dovetailed to turn a garden into an organic medium for music. She pulls this off by attaching electrodes to leafy limbs, which conduct the bio-electric emissions coming off living plants. The micro-voltage then gets sucked into her self-authored software, turning data into ambient melodies and harmonic frequencies.

It’s simply not enough for these green little squirts to just spit out noise. All this generative organic electronic music must sound beautiful, too. As a renewable energy ambassador, Mileece’s larger goal behind her plant music is to enhance our relationship with nature. And if plant music can have a pleasing aesthetic articulation then hopefully we all can give a greater damn about our environment.

While some may see the paradox in an organic medium generating electronic music, Mileece does not. She sees this as a symbiotic relationship, a vital one, and one that hints to a larger relationship she’s been trying to unify, which is that between humans and nature.

24 thoughts on “Sound Artist Mileece On Making Electronic Music With Plants

    1. So we must all regurgitate the Detroit sound and contribute nothing original or carve our own path? Sounds a bit wonky. Yeah…don’t you dare think outside the box.

      1. My reference of Detroit was about culture and economics.
        The guy from Cabaret Voltaire has been doing enviromental recordings for years.
        If this is art then someone my do well to look at the German Dadaists like Grosz and Dix.
        Or maybe someone needs to check out Sub Rosa in Brussels.
        This film is cringe worthy.

        1. Why even mention Detroit don’t see how it relates at all, maybe you was watching a different video?
          Chris Watson (Cabaret Voltaire) has done some amazing work as an environmental recordist, but recording nature is different to what the Lady is doing and that is translate biorhythms to sound etc.
          Music/Sound is and has always been subjective to the listener.
          At the end of the day if the children get something out of interacting with the plants sonically then it is has value.
          Guess if you dare to do do something different or follow your ideals your pretentious.

    2. what does “pretentious and decadent” even mean in this context? why not save those comments for someone buying or making a bunch of shiny new plastic boxes to make music from 30 years ago?

      plants are cheap, the software is cheap, the sensors are cheap. with them you can build/grow your own instruments and interact with the organic processes in meaningful ways to actually, you know, make music.

      just like building any instrument involves manipulating and interacting with the environment. where do you think the silicon, strings, keys, the resonating body or any part of an instrument comes from? there is tons of potential in this to be less wasteful overall. instead of making a cheap plastic (petroleum) disposable keys or carving up an elephant (ivory), or chopping down tress, or mining into the earth, or growing fields of food that don’t feed people, but get industrially processed, you could grow a bunch of mushrooms or something and play those. 🙂

      detroit would actually be a great place to try out some of this stuff as the city is “going to seed” as it were 😉 and the man made structures are decaying. there are even a lot of parallels to taking cheap electronic gear no one wanted or sampling old records and making something personal out of it.

      the question i think is why isn’t more money put into r&d on this type of project.

  1. I have funk records from detroit.Metroplex records etc Soul records.
    Records on Gordy ,with thunder sounds in them from 75.your take on detroit seems somewhat narrow.

  2. How strange! Detroit?
    She has found her own little niche and seems to be following her instincts with intelligence and empathy for the world around her.
    Whats not to like?
    Surely the playground is big enough for millions of different ideas without inane comparisons.

  3. Things like this are intriguing and it’s certainly art. Those who ridicule it obviously miss the point, it’s experimentalism and not for everyone. Not should it be treated as if its music to be purchased although some like to listen to it.

    Someone had an idea and it works!

  4. Art yes… Definitely.

    But… please construct a falsifiable argument before you assert certainty of your correctness. It would be just as easy for me to have Bertrand Russell’s flying teapot be sentient as is her claims about plants. Then straw-manning us with science’s ‘inability’ to tell us what consciousness even is, well that is just a giant logical pothole.

  5. Anyways, Detroit regurgitation theories and art debates aside, I don’t think any sane male would reject an opportunity to be inside that bio dome with those ladies and get down to some serious research 🙂

  6. Disregarding Detroit (which is a city, not a conscious entity btw), can we at least all agree that this is pretentious twaddle, and this particular notion (sonifying plants, sonifying any random or semirandom analog input from the “real world” ) had been done to death before this particular hipster was born?

    1. I understand some people will think this is art-school stuff or that it’s been done before – but what impressed me is that her work is actually musical – it sounds nice and she’s created an interesting interactive interface.

      That’s really rare – most of the time ‘experimental’ music sounds like the creator has no understanding or interest in the things that make music appealing to listeners.

      1. Fair enough. I find it interesting that this appeared on same day as similar report on Tristan Perich. Less “nice” sound wise perhaps, but IMO really delivering the goods. I think he’s the real deal, and she’s right on edge of shennanigans.

  7. Above comment purely jealous bile, of course, directed at any young person that makes a semi-living out of stuff that I personally regarded as “not gettawayable-with” when I was same age…

    1. Hey moderator – an edit button would be nice for preventing replies not matching up. I was referring to MY previous comment people.

  8. I really like what she’s doing. It’s intelligent and fun. Projects like this make me optimistic towards generative music and how we relate to it as artists and listeners in the future.

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