Two-electrode Plant Sensor with speaker

Botanic Quartet @ Ars Electronica, 2020

Botanic Quartet

Site-specific Electronic-Sculptural Installation.


Botanic Quartet is a live generative audio performance between four plants. Each plant is hooked up to a sensor, which monitors both its rapidly-changing electrochemical activity and soil health.

My custom electronics processes this data for each plant and transforms it into specific instruments, changing tones, pitches and patterns. The result is a data-driven composition, building upon conversations around chance music, as developed by John Cage and others, leading us to enjoy aural patterns played by non-human organisms.

Each installation is site-specific with custom sound design. Instruments have ranged from a baritone ukulele (played by me), bass lines, drums (banging on pots and pans), a musical saw, sampled hip-hop tracks and site-specific recordings.

All instruments get played on embedded ESP32 chips and the “clock” is its own embedded chip which sends synchronized beat signals to all the other ones over OSC — through my local wifi network. They receive signals at different times and so respond slightly out of sync. Like a musically-expressive performance, every beat does does not align exactly with each tick of a metronome.

Botanic Quartet is an installation of the Unnatural Language project, which is an ongoing collaboration with Michael Ang.


Botanic Quartet, 2020, Ars Electronica
Botanic Quartet, 2020, “Joynt”, Codame Festival