‘Desert Songs’ by  love hultén


Thorny cacti sound just like how they look: haunting, eerie, but at times, playful. Audiovisual artist Love Hultén wondered what cacti sounded like and went ahead to bring out their inner tunes in his signature way of using wires, data, and his custom-built sound machine.


‘It’s not magic and the plants are not composing, it’s simply biofeedback creating true organic randomness,’ he says. As he plugs the clip into the cactus’ thorns, he closes the lid, turns up the volume, and right there, the plant’s fluctuating feedback flow into the space music box of the audiovisual artist, affording listeners the haunting but alluring sounds of nature.

desert songs love hultén
images courtesy of Love Hultén



Dubbed ‘Desert Songs,’ Hultén turns to Plantwave, a small device that translates biodata from organic material into MIDI sounds, to dig into the tunes of cacti. He explains that the plants act as variable resistors, so what his sound machine records and plays are the tiny changes in the electrical current of the test plants.


He used cacti for the project for their ‘very sparse and sporadic activity,’ which might indicate that the more movement a plant makes, the louder, sharper, and even snappier the sound might come out.

desert songs love hultén
plugging the device into the thorns



mimicking chloroplasts under microscope


For Desert Songs, Love Hultén plants a whole cacti garden into the sound machine box. Equipped with a circular screen injected in a tube TV-esque box, the images flashed on the display seem to come from the current that the plant device detects. ‘The cacti garden includes a few different specimens hooked up to probes, and outputs for individual plants can be changed as you go using patch points upfront,’ says the audiovisual artist.


The result looks like a science experiment that students will have fun testing out. To complete the biolab environment look, Hultén even made a custom MIDI visualizer to mimic chloroplasts under microscope. For MIDI buffs out there, the audiovisual artist says that the signals are sent to a Korg NTS-1 for simple waveshaping and then drenched in atmosphere using the Microcosm from Hologram Electronics. For the others, wondering about what cacti sound like might have been finally answered (and eerily, just to add).

desert songs love hultén
close-up view

listen to love hultén's cacti make haunting sounds from biodata listen to love hultén's cacti make haunting sounds from biodata



project info:


name: Desert Songs

audiovisual: Love Hultén

device: Plantwave