A Magazine for the George Mason University Community

Making Beautiful Music

By Colleen Kearney Rich on August 31, 2021

Plants are the music composers and performers in artist-in-residence Sam Nester’s Arcadia, a public sound and light installation on Mason’s Fairfax Campus. Arcadia uses modified biodata-sonification sensors to convert the natural, real-time biorhythms of Virginia native plants in the Presidents Park Hydroponic Greenhouse into Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) data.

Yassmin Salem, Mural Brigade director, collaborates with the University Curator Don Russell and Sarah D’Alexander, sustainability program manager, Patriot Green Fund, Office of Sustainability to set up and maintain the Elements installation Arcadia. Photo by Evan Cantwell/Creative Services

Data collected from the plants are sent to a computer that processes the information and then outputs real-time sound through a variety of MIDI instruments. Simultaneously, signals controlling the MIDI instruments also control an LED light display corresponding to the pitches of the MIDI instruments.

The installation is accessible until December 2021 via its dedicated Twitch live stream at twitch.tv/masonarcadia, or you can see it in person by driving by Presidents Park.

Learn more at bit.ly/gmuarcadia. 

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