The mysterious singing of plants

Here are the most fascinating parts of Jean Thoby’s recent book (www.plantarium.eco) ‘Le Chant Secret des Plantes‘ (Rustica editions, Paris. 2019). The subtitle reads ‘Refreshing oneself thanks to plant music’. Summaries by Henk Kieft.

Jean Thoby, a green man

Jean is a widely recognized ornamental plant grower. After many years of innovation, he now focuses with his partner Frederique and his company on growing music-sensitive plants. In his book he goes deeply into his discoveries in the musical character of plants. As far as I know, this is the first practical book on this subject. He uses his musical experiences with the Music-of-the-Plants device (see www.MusicofthePlants.com ). He actively collaborates with Genodics researchers on protein music (see www.genodics.com ), which concerns biological principles based on quantum physics. And he uses the general knowledge about the plant as an electrical phenomenon. I have explained all these techniques in my book ‘Quantum Leaps in Agriculture, exploring quantum principles in farming, gardening and nature’ (see elsewhere on my website). 

But Jean has, much more than I have, experimented with the healing effect of this music. And after years of listening to all kinds of plants – often hours a day – he is much further in interpreting this music. He connects to very recent – and sometimes even more than a century old – research in phytoneurology, which he describes as ‘the analysis of the electrical signals of plants’. 

Several doctors are pleasantly surprised by the special effects of plant music on people’s health. Together with these doctors he started to convert his experiences into practical music therapy. And he documents as many experiences as possible, so that researchers can later use these results to better understand these phenomena scientifically. Finally, he explores future application possibilities, also relevant for agriculture, horticulture and forestry. 

And he organized the first (in Paris in 2017) and organises the second International Festival of Plant Music (11-16 August 2020, at Chateau de Gaujacq in the south-east of France). In short: something is happening there!

Few people read French easily. That’s why – with Jean’s explicit agreement – I’m going to summarise some of his most innovative insights for readers on my website. 

Root tips respond to sound 

Italian researcher Stefano Mancuso has shown that carrot tips not only move in the direction of water, but also in the direction of the sound of water. And as soon as one root tip does it, other tips start to grow in that direction as well. Root tips apparently are essential for plants to pick up information from the world around them. So, in his nursery he has radically stopped pruning root systems. Especially annuals react very well to this measure. 

Although plants cannot move to orientate themselves in their environment, it seems that – during evolution – plants have found another way, namely permanent communication with other trees and with the environment. There is little as strongly connected to the environment as vegetation is. Here may be a reason why a tree of 4 meters high can have up to 200 hectares of contact with the air. The root system has an enormous contact surface with the soil as well. 

These facts serve something else as well. Researchers, among others in Japan, have been exploring for years how receiving – and emitting – electromagnetic waves through tree roots can be used in predicting earthquakes two days before the earth physically shakes. The growing tension in the earth’s crust is ‘observed’ by the tree roots and we can observe and measure the changes in that tension. Those roots can go deep. Cavers – investigating deep caverns – have even observed living roots of an oak species at a depth of 160 metres.

The musical alphabet of the living

This alphabet of life does not have 26 ‘letters’ but 22 amino acids, or more precisely the sound frequencies that match these 22 amino acids. Each protein has its own combination of amino acids and thus its own combination of frequencies … its own melody. So, everything that can produce proteins transmits melodies inside the cell, and outside the cell as well: melodies of the proteins that are in production at that moment of the growth cycle.  

By now the melodies of about 5000 proteins are known. And herein lies the secret of the Genodics method. Plants appear to be sensitive to the frequencies – the melodies – that come from outside and penetrate the plant. And the same goes for insects and higher animals, all of which also contain proteins. With this technique every plant grower and every farmer and forester can promote the production of desired proteins.

These frequencies are much higher than what we humans can hear. Humans are actually a rather deaf phenomenon, we can observe frequencies between 20 and 20,000 Hertz (Hz) while the formation of proteins is controlled by frequencies in the order of 20 zeros more, so a hundred times a billion times a billion times higher. Inaudible to our ears. How is it then possible that the audible music of Genodics still works on plants and animals (and people)? This is because of musical laws: take a basic tone of say 400 Hz. So, one octave higher counts 800 Hz and another octave higher counts 1600 Hz and so on. Those octaves resonate in harmony with each other and amplify each other. And this law goes on up to the highest overtones, so audible music also works in the formation of proteins. 

Protein music examples

For example, the protein Apetala stimulates the setting of flowers. And the melody of Apetala also does this very convincingly. In Gardenia and Camellia, this music has multiplied flower formation. 

Here Thoby plays with the idea that plants have developed on earth for more than 450 million years and have constantly absorbed all kinds of vibrations of the universe. So, they must have tuned in to vibrations. A nice example is the well-known melody ‘O solo mio’, which according to the composers Eduardo di Capua and Alfredo Mazzucchi is set to music in a field full of sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) because this melody contains a series of notes that occur in the metabolism of the sunflower, namely in the formation of the protein ATP6. 

And how do you explain that certain music by Pachelbel reduces stress? Because the 8 notes in that melody correspond to the same sequence of notes in GTPase, which is known to reduce stress. He even refers to the French national anthem, the ‘Marseillaise’, with its rather bloodcurdling text. Something like ‘the blood of the enemy will flow in the furrows of our fields’. This melody helps the blood coagulate. So, if some plant wounded your fingers, then sing or hum the Marseillaise melody. 

Or ‘Le printemps’ by Vivaldi that stimulates the release of milk in cows. Via a trip to the giraffe he continues with the same principle for grass and cows. The example is known that acacia’s in Southern Africa at some point produce a poison that the giraffe hates. This happens especially during drought periods, when the pressure of the animals on the acacia becomes too great. Because of this toxin the giraffes move elsewhere and so the pressure on the acacia decreases. According to Jean, this phenomenon can also be applied to grass and cows. In evolution, the family of grasses originated late, about 80 million years ago (ferns that have been around for at least 450 million years). That is why the grasses have developed far fewer ways of dealing with their environment of fungi or insects – or with cows. Yet something similar happens in grasses that are being overgrazed. They then develop such a bitter taste that the cows hardly eat it anymore. ‘The grass decides whether it wants to be eaten’, Thoby concludes. This also provides an explanation for the bad mood of cows in overgrazed or impoverished pastures. 

The ethical question of technology 

In the end, Thoby can no longer deny the ethical question: what do we do to nature with this technical intervention, even when it is such a sympathetic thing as music. Is that really responsible? Then he gets an article that directly resolves his doubts: the phenomenon occurs in nature in general. It has been documented, for example, by Pierre Lavange on whales (www.shelltonewhaleproject.org/le-lien-perdu ). Some whales sang in the vicinity of phytoplankton just before feeding on it. Analysis of this plankton showed that the protein content was higher than in unsung plankton. Lavange also mentions that only the mother whales with baby were ‘allowed’ to eat this plankton. Actually, the whole of nature functions by means of vibrations, he concludes.

Listening tips and learning points

Thoby also lists a number of advices for a good ‘plant music session’. 

– be calm and attentive yourself

– be open and receptive 

– provide a quiet environment, preferably without passing traffic

– be relaxed: it doesn’t work if you’re busy with yourself or if you expect too many results.

He noticed that plants sometimes just don’t make music when your mind is busy with very different things. 

Each plant has its own ‘fingerprint’

With some experience – says Thoby – you can recognize a plant by the first notes of the music. The first series of tones of the same plant is always the same. Only after a few seconds other tones are being added. So, there is a specific vibration pattern for each plant family. Within a family it becomes much harder to recognize the difference, but Thoby and Georges Simmonds, researcher of the French national agricultural research institute INRA, trust that – with the help of computers – the pattern of each cultivar could eventually be recognized. So, each plant species, each cultivar, has its own characteristic ‘vibration pattern’ or ‘musical signature’.

If a plant species is present on earth for a longer period of time, it is also electrically more active and thus emits more tones. The ferns ( > 450 million years of evolution) are much more active than the conifers ( 200 million years) or the flowering plants (120-180 million years), or the grasses that (with at most 80 million years) hardly produce any electric waves. If we realize that we humans are only here for an even shorter time – much shorter than the grasses – then it is clear that we are not nearly as connected as the plant kingdom is. We are the pupils here. 

The more hybrid plants also show fewer waves. The more natural a plant is genetically, the stronger its electrical activity. So the preservation of original plant material is even more important than we thought. 

Plants in organic cultivation exhibit strong and long-lasting electrical activity. A plant forced by artificial fertiliser also produces sounds initially, but after 1 to 3 hours it gets quieter. It is therefore possible – Thoby supposes – that crops without synthetic molecules much longer maintain their ability to communicate, both internally (inside and between cells) and externally (with the environment, such as fungi or insects). 

The plant reacts to the environment

We have already mentioned the example of the root tips that grow towards the sound of water. When a plant dries out, the tones also diminish. Or if the plant gets water with a high pH (alkaline water) or contains chlorine, the tones also quiet. As soon as you clean the plant or give it water with a lower pH, the music comes back immediately. 

During a strong storm, plants first produce sharp and very unpleasant tones, and then often fall silent. Even the day before the storm, the tones are subdued or absent. During heavy rain and thunder, on the other hand, the activity is maximal. Interestingly, ancient agricultural cultures remember that thunderstorms were favourable for plant cultivation.

Plants also react to people

Plants sometimes stop playing music as soon as certain people get closer. People with stress, anger or frustration. Or if someone can’t believe what he hears and shouts ‘This is impossible!’ then the plant may stop until this person has left. That’s why Thoby keeps the audience of a plant music concert at least three meters away from the stage. 

There may even be a certain ‘complicity’ between a plant grower and her plants. So much so that the plant hardly makes any music when another person replaces that grower at a demonstration of that plant’s music. Or the plant just fell silent when the caretaker retreated; in their experience that happened at a distance of about 20 meters. And the music started again as soon as the caretaker came back within 20 meters distance.

Plants, however, do not seem to fall still when people play music themselves or keep plants in the garden or on the balcony.

Music of plants can also help people

Thoby refers to several people who came to him, after a concert, with remarks that the music had reduced or sometimes even solved their physical or mental problem. He too has experienced this at his foot. In the meantime, his practical experience has grown so much that Thoby, together with a team of doctors, carries out exploratory experiments in a hospital.

Optimal functioning of the plant music

All these experiences have led to a protocol that users of direct plant music can follow in order to achieve optimal effect: 

– the place should be completely calm and quiet

– the plant grower/owner should withdraw after the device is installed, in order not to influence the plant’s music for the listening person

– during the first 5 minutes, concentrate in silence on your physical or mental problem 

– then a short break would be good, maybe to explain something or answer questions

– the second part of such a session often lasts 20-30 minutes. During this period, you have to be receptive and not allow yourself to wander through all kinds of thoughts and not move along with the rhythm of the music. Have faith in the plant, even if you don’t understand how it works

– the listening client can decide when to stop. Often this happens after you get an image in your mind.

Listening clients are often fascinated and sometimes just enraptured by the experience.

Protein music

Thoby is searching an explanation for these healing experiences of direct plant music in protein music as developed by Genodics. And there appear to be surprising similarities between the sound series produced by the Music-of-the-Plant-device and the sound series of various proteins. The hypothesis would be that plants perceive the listener’s vibration patterns, react to them and convert them into vibrations that stimulate the desired healing protein? A very exciting new field of research is emerging indeed. Thanks Thoby!

You might be interested to attend the second International Festival of Plant Music, from 11-16 August 2020, at Chateau de Gaujacq in the south-east of France. 

Henk Kieft

2 comments

  • Goedenavond Henk,
    Dit is een interessant gegeven maar het lijkt mij plausibel. Immers hoe kunnen bijen en hommels met hun facetogen planten ontdekken waar honing te vinden is. Dat is vrijwel onmogelijk. Facetogen zijn prima navigatiemiddelen voor de korte afstand. Maar op lange afstand zijn alleen gehoor en reuk de enige zintuigen die op afstand werken. (Gevoel ook maar dat werkt alleen in water). Dus als planten muziek kunnen maken, moeten hommels en bijeen kunnen horen. Het onderzoek naar geluid loopt in Wageningen. Dat onderzoek gaat echter uit van sonar. Dat lijkt een plausibel voor muggen maar lijkt mij onzin voor bijen of hommels.
    Graag hoor ik van je.

    • Beste Maarten, dank je voor je interessante reflectie op The mysterious singing of plants. Je bent nog steeds een studiebol. Je verwijst naar Wagenings onderzoek naar geluid – en dus gehoor van bijen en hommels. Geluid bestaat uit frequenties van drukgolven in de lucht. Maar deze golven roepen ook elektromagnetische reacties op, waarvoor bijen en hommels blijkbaar gevoelig zijn. Daarnaast komt recentelijk veel onderzoek los naar de gevoeligheid van bijen voor allerlei EM-frequenties. Bijen kunnen daardoor totaal gedesoriënteerd raken en kunnen hun bijendans niet meer uitvoeren om andere bijen te laten zien en laten ‘beleven’ (want ze dansen dan mee) waar de nectar te vinden is. Bovendien kennen planten een elektrisch veld om zich heen waarop bijen zich ook kunnen oriënteren. Eigenlijk is ons hele ecosysteem een elektrisch fenomeen. Wijzelf als mens ook. Zie het boekje van Sander Funneman ‘Elektrisch Ecosysteem’. Dat inzicht biedt enorm veel nieuwe mogelijkheden om onze werkelijkheid dieper te begrijpen. Inclusief de muzikale aspecten van levensprocessen en de werking van muziek op levende wezens.
      Wat houdt jou trouwens bezig de laatste jaren. Je bent toch al met pensioen?

      met vriendelijke groet, Henk