POINTS NORTH: ‘The Plant Musician’ | News

todayNovember 12, 2023 6

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COPEMISH — Tom Wall sets up his guitar and amplifier between rows of baby sequoia trees at the Archangel Ancient Tree Archive.

He’s tall, bearded, wearing a black trench coat and what looks like a hand-knit beanie.

On the concrete floor, a small wooden box is wired to a tree’s leaf and root. Wall is going to use this box to make the tree play music with him. When he presses a button on the device, soft piano notes fall out of a nearby speaker.

Then there are a few seconds of silence — almost as if its scared to play — that is until Wall clutches a branch of the sequoia in his palms.

All of a sudden, more notes. And this time, they’re played with more excitement and volume.

Wall turns up the knobs on his guitar and layers a few chords under the piano. He sits on his knees, closes his eyes and feels the energy of the plant life around him.

The sequoia tree makes the piano melody from a plant music machine. Supposedly, devices like these are able to harness the electricity in plants. And then turn those impulses into musical notes.

That may sound straight out of science fiction, but not for Wall. He says the device makes him think deeply about what plants can do.

“Much like you talk to a person that doesn’t know your language, you can still understand the basic reactions like the excitement of somebody or the melancholy,” Wall said. “That means it’s just like a human and it’s expressing emotion.”

Wall already has an exciting music career in west Michigan with his psychedelic rock band Cosmic Knot. Now, he says the plant music machine has opened up a world of creative possibilities.

It’s also posed some tough questions. Are plants able to communicate with us through the music? And if so, what are they trying to say?

Wall is convinced there’s something more happening. But on the latest episode of Points North, those questions are posed to the scientific community.

Hear Wall’s thoughts, his jam session with plants, and go down the rabbit hole with additional sources by scanning the QR code to the left.

Michael Livingston is a Report for America corps member and Mackinac Straits Bureau reporter covering rural life in northern Michigan. Reach him at This story is adapted from Points North.

, a podcast about the land, water, and inhabitants of the Great Lakes from Interlochen Public Radio.

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Written by: Soft FM Radio Staff

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