Photosynthetic Beats (Vinyl, forms of minutiae) / Installation, Venice Architecture Biennale 2023

Photosynthesizing aquatic plants, hydrophone

On a too-hot summer day in the Swiss Jura, I was listening to bog ponds with an underwater microphone. Below the surface, lay swarming tapestries of submerged greenery bathing in sunlight. These were the aqueous cradle of oscillations essential to our world.

As aquatic plants photosynthesize, they release oxygen bubbles from their stems and leaves. The moment of release creates myriads of extremely short sound pulses, resulting in ever-changing polyrhythms stemming from different parts of the plant. At a particularly high frequency, the pulses become continuous tones. From these sounds, one can deduce if and how strongly the plant is converting CO2 to oxygen. This depends on light and temperature, but is also affected by contaminants, fertilizers or pesticides.

The two recordings were made in two different ponds, and in both cases the hydrophone was in close proximity to a common bladderwort (Utricularia vulgaris), a carnivorous aquatic plant. While in the first recording the process is left to itself, Berger intervenes in the second by using shadows to regulate the pace of activity. At first accidentally, then intentionally, the interplay of light and shadow triggered the plants to respond with various temporal and tonal shifts.

To emphasize the microscopic processes and polyrhythms of the plants, these recordings were saturated, equalized and dynamically processed. Yet they remain unedited and unchanged in their temporality. Later on, twelve loops were extracted from the recordings to further highlight the percussive nature of the photosynthetic phenomenon. These loops are featured as locked grooves on the release’s vinyl format.

For my installation at the French Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2023, I invited Drummer Julian Sartorius to respond to the recordings in an interspecies dialogue. His drums were recorded separately and played back on a 8 channel audio system along the plant recordings.

Nominated for the "Best Natural Sound" at Sound of the Year Awards 2022

Installation at Venice Architecture Biennale 2023, French Pavilion

Vinyl release at forms of minutiae

"The most engaging, playful and inventive vinyl releases in years… and my favourite techno release of many years " (Freddie Hudson, Reach)

"'It makes a fascinating and attractive case that on the microscopic scale, nature is just as rhythmic and driving as techno" (Ilka Geyer, WDR 3)

"Highly inventive and interesting 'techno' release … Endlessly creative, the sound art audible from this bog pond is staggering." (Electronic Sound)

"These polyrhythms are like the ultra-minimalist glitch music of the natural world" (Matthew Blackwell, The Best Field Recordings on Bandcamp, June 2023)

"Lively, unpredictable, mesmerizing and fascinating… a wonderful ambient audio environment that Berger has skillfully created." (Audio Crackle)

"An enormous and interesting superstructure, but also a really refreshing listening experience" (Karsten Zimalla, Westzeit)

"A brilliant idea… a truly amazing sonic magma… incredible sounds." (Roberto Peciola, il manifesto)

"The idea is extremely interesting and works well as a botanical document" (Paul Casey, musique machine)

Recording at Marais Des Pontins

Live shadow modifications

The recordings were made at the residence of la dépendance in St. Imier in July 2022. Thanks to Jan van Oordt and the Collectif du Pont.