Connecting music and the world in a synesthetic wayTakashi Iura & Sachiyo Oshima (artists)

2014 01 13

Solo show: water's edge

Venue: Art Space Niji
Date: September 2012
Work Title: lily pads

This installation “water’s edge” musically reconstructs waterside scenery. While the shapes of water lily leaves and their sequential arrangements evoke a sense of music, the work “lily pads” converts the arrangement of the leaves to actual music people can listen to. Defining synesthetic “music” as time and space controlled by a certain regulation, and which doesn’t require sound itself, we attempted to extract “music” from the shape of the plant. Interpreting the water lily leaves as instruments and scores, the size of a leaf determined the pitch while the line of a leaf determined the scale. Not only using natural plants as a musical score, we assembled an original, high-quality instrument that “performs” music.


Photo : Tomas Svab

Solo show: connect with

Venue: Art Space Niji
Date: September 2013
Work Title: pot roses 4’16”

“pot roses 4’16”” is a music piece that encodes the form of a plant (a potted miniature rose) and traces its process of growth. Natural forms give humans various inspirations. While for “lily pads” (2012) we composed music out of the characteristic features of a plant, in this work we observed the changes that happen to the plant during a limited time frame of eight days.

What kind of relationship can we discover between plants and music? For example, if you look down on a potted rose directly from above, you notice that its leaves are growing in various directions yet do not overlap very much. Healthy roses have three leaves, five leaves, or seven leaves, arranged with reason for efficient photosynthesis. This balance is very musical. Shooting the potted rose from above and processing the images, we converted the positional relationship of the leaves into notes on a score and created a short piece of music.

Shooting the rose from the same determined angle every day, we could record daily changes. If leaf density intensified, activities such as photosynthesis and water transpiration became stagnant, and thus the rose became sensitive to disease. Withered leaves fall from the stem while a new leaf grows from other parts to adjust for the missing one. Human hands also prune the plant. Influenced by these many factors, a plant initiates changes while repeating a cycle of growth, error, and adjustment. This clash and harmony can also be described as very musical. In this work, a total of 64 phrases (eight phrases per day multiplied by eight) illustrated a part of the periodicity inherent to the plant. (Production notes, September 2013)

Engaging with plant growth as a theme for this new work enabled us to expand both our artistic and musical abilities. A plant does not necessary move as per our artistic intentions, but as we continued to observe its growth (changes), we came to develop an interest in “balance,” something that is shared with both music and biological activities. For instance, the cycle of growth, error, and adjustment in the plant evokes musical counterpoint as well as polyphony, and the symmetry of leave positions also suggests chords taken from a harmony.