Mushroom music on TikTok opens up fungus exploration

What do nature songs sound like? You might imagine burbling streams, chirping bees, and chirping birds. But for creators at the forefront of the experimental technology of making music with mushrooms, nature sounds like an otherworldly synthesizer beep.

Musician and former biologist Tarun Nayar didn’t expect a throwaway TikTok video toying with a phenomenon called biodata sonification to go viral. He started by connecting the plants to a modular synth to convert the plant’s bioelectrical signals into electronic music. This technology works on everything from flowers to apples to humans. But it’s now the hypnotic tone of mushrooms spreading like spores.

“Connecting and working with nature is a beautiful practice. 730,000 followers on TikTokHis most popular mushroom music video has been viewed tens of millions of times. “It shows very directly that mushrooms live like we live.”

To be clear, mushrooms don’t make their own music, nor do they intentionally choose the sounds we hear (as far as we know). Devices simply convert biological processes into frequencies that we can convert into music. But the popularity of mushroom music speaks to a larger cultural wave inspired by these mystical creatures that have been in the shadows for far too long.

“Fungi are certainly having their time,” says biologist and seminal book author Merlin Sheldrake.Life Tangled: How Fungi Shape Our World, Change Our Minds, and Shape Our Future

The online fascination with funky funky beats stems from the scientific community’s desire to better understand the many mystical wonders of fungi. For centuries, we have been ignorant of the enormous underground fungal networks that cover our planet, and of the pivotal role they play in our ecosystems. We overlooked biological complexity. more animal-like from Flora.

But technologies like microscopy, big data, and now biodata sonification are “opening the door to their hidden worlds” by giving us “access to their activities.” It’s coming,” says Sheldrake. In its current state, biodata sonification has limited scientific applications. Because “we don’t know what these electrical fluctuations say about fungal life.” Still, Sheldrake hopes that with more time and research, this kind of biodata sonification will one day be reliable enough to be applied empirically.

Artistic interpretation of these interesting data streams is also important. They add yet another layer to this burgeoning moment in human history.

Tune in, on, drop out

Mycologist Giuliana Furci, founder of the nonprofit Fungi Foundation, which focuses on fungal research and conservation, loves how a familiar and universal musical language brings everyday people closer to these amazing creatures. I’m here. The device can, for example, sonify the electrical impulses emitted by underground fungal networks as they nourish the ecosystems they support through forest root systems.

Communication between mushrooms

(Danny Drunkwalter/For the Times)

The central role of mushrooms in the hotly debated theory known aswood wide web– claiming the trees talk to each other via a network of fungi known as the “Forest Internet” or “Forest Communicators” – rivaling their online rise, passing musician Noah Kalos says. From MycoLyco to nearly 700,000 TikTok followersIt’s almost poetic that mankind’s own information network has broadened our interest in fungi. It mentions that the knowledge of the mushroom kingdom has been opened not only to experts in the field, but also to the general public.Mushroom-loving influencers Gabriel Thurbill (known as chaotic forageror Mushroom Auntie on TikTok) has amassed a million followers by teaching newbies how to fearlessly embrace wild mushrooms.

“We have seen a big shift in mushroom culture over the last two years,” says Kalos. “Every aspect of mushrooms has captured the imagination of her pop culture.” Last May, Kalos performed her music. Designer Stella McCartney fashion showhas debuted a new line of mushroom leather bags with a focus on sustainability.

McCartney was not the first human to utilize mushrooms as a material for clothing. More recently, mushrooms have been used in upholstery, coffee from hip LA cafes, skincare, and supplements.

In part, the cultural renaissance of fungi can be traced to a resurgence of interest in magic mushrooms. Psilocybin, for both medical and recreational purposes. But as more artists across different mediums begin to enter the fungal realm, something deeper seems to be going on.

“Fungi provide a very fertile metaphor for artists and thinkers,” says Sheldrake. “It’s like that alien way of life. Otherness, its queerness, is very inspiring when it affects us. It provides a basis for new ways of thinking. ”

As fungal thinking starts to pop up in more places, a seemingly silly but head-wracking question arises. Are mushrooms conscious and are their cultural takeovers intentional?”There’s an inside joke among mushroom people that they’re just taking advantage of us,” he said. Mr. laughs. “I am now fully utilized by fungi to scatter mushrooms.”

It may sound silly, but the question of fungal consciousness has caused a real schism in the scientific community. plant awareness In their research— spark of criticism Fingers are waving from those who claim that plants have no feelings. Biologist Sheldrake and mycologist Furci agree when it comes to mushrooms. They intentionally adapt their behavior based on the information they process from their active perception of their environment. “Whether or not we attribute it to consciousness depends on the definition of the word,” Fulci says. “It’s not the same as our consciousness, and that’s what people have a hard time understanding.”

There are possibilities in the unknown world

Recently illustrated by HBO’s The Last of Us record-breaking attendance It’s premised on an apocalyptic pandemic caused by a fungus turning humans into zombies. Clearly, the idea of ​​spreading awareness of fungi frightens some people. “After witnessing so many mass deaths now, mushrooms also represent life after death for us,” Nayer says.

A mushroom that grows and rots according to the cycles of the sun and moon.

(Danny Drunkwalter/For the Times)

Our wave of interest in fungi may stem from their potential to ‘help us’. Adapt to life on a damaged planetsays Sheldrake, describing them as “poster organisms for ecological thinking.” As Furci points out, “We only know about 5% to 10% of the fungal species on Earth, but they already shape much of our world.” gave us penicillin, meat substitutes, bread yeast, beer, wine and cheese.

The all-purpose mushroom potential is not just a metaphor for regeneration. “The promise of unlocking their unknown gives us hope,” says Fulci.

it’s all in the vibes

The artificial mushroom trend is just the latest example of the storied relationship between fungi and music. Indigenous elders instructed Fulci’s team to return the music to the forest in exchange for mushrooms they collected while researching fields in southern Chile. On the other hand, research on high voltage shock waves Echoes a Japanese folktale about how lightning boosts shiitake mushroom harvestsDespite the lack of hearing organs in mushrooms, scientists continue to seek evidence How much influence sound can have on different types of fungi. 1 study even theorize The electrical impulses captured by these biodata sonification devices can be understood as a kind of fungal language.

However, some mycologists remain skeptical about this dubious connection between music and mushrooms. Fulci recalls that he famously said that sex is only closeness in the dictionary.

Sheldrake also questions the scientific accuracy of the soundification devices commonly used in these viral videos and how musicians anthropomorphize mushrooms. A rudimentary set-up can only measure an organism’s electrical response—”how easily electricity flows through something.” Easily accessible devices may also be susceptible to electromagnetic noise and interference. Artists may also manipulate sounds significantly to make them more pleasing to the human ear.

A mushroom surrounded by pulsating colors

(Danny Drunkwalter/For the Times)

Nayar admits that this new genre of artistic collaboration with nature is still in its early stages. But the best way to maximize its potential is to encourage as many people as possible to experiment and “remember the moments of wonder that connect us to the natural world and, ultimately, to ourselves.” He believes that Experiences can often be funny simply because we understand so little. For him, it is as important as the moment of spiritual awe. “It’s like one big, fun, science-oriented group project,” he says.

Kalos finds meaning in the way the practice requires “liberation of the ego, liberation of creative control.” She picks the notes, and the mushroom’s electrical signals determine the order of the notes. This can lead to groovy soundscapes suddenly turning into “absolute garbage” during her live performances due to unexpected changes. “It’s about embracing entropy, chaos and randomness and working together to create something that is uniquely evolving all the time.”

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