You’ve nailed that awesome Halloween costume, but do you have the soundtrack to match it? Experimental electronic musician Tarun Nayar has got you covered. The Canadian man caused waves on social media by hooking up forest mushrooms to synthesizers that convert natural fluctuations in bioelectricity into rhythmic tones. The end result is eery, outer-worldly music that is ideal for this spooky weekend.
“What I’m really doing is trying to stimulate joy and wonder and create these little sketches or vignettes using the plants themselves, so I like to think of it as definitely a collaboration,” Nayar told CBC’s As It Happens guest host Helen Mann.
Nayar is a former biologist with a background in Indian classical music turned electronic musician who shows off his spore-driven music on TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram. His content showing mushroom ‘singing’ has been quickly embraced, earning millions of views.
The artist starts off by attaching crocodile jumper cables to the mushrooms and connecting them to his synthesizer. The synth receives bioelectricity signals from the mushroom, contributing to pitch changes and rhythm, while the synth itself is responsible for the timbre. The movement of water inside the mushroom varies constantly, thereby affecting the electrical resistance. It is these minute changes in bioelectricity that manifest themselves into musical tones or ‘plant music’.
“So we’re converting those small changes in bioelectricity into small note changes on a synthesizer. Basically, that’s the magic that’s happening,” Nayar said.
To spice things up, the artist adds some effects like delay and reverb to make the mushroom sounds really pop. Of course, it’s not just mushrooms that Nayar toyed with for his projects. He turned all manner of fruits and vegetables from mangos to watermelons into musical instruments. One of his favorites is cacti music, like the track below.
Nayar says that he aims to draw people’s attention to nature with his experimental projects, and directs some of the revenue he makes from social media to nature conservation. So if you are delighted by his work, lend a hand and pitch to your local nature charity.
Tibi is a science journalist and co-founder of ZME Science. He writes mainly about emerging tech, physics, climate, and space. In his spare time, Tibi likes to make weird music on his computer and groom felines.