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Potted plant 'performs' music at Indigenous art gallery on Vancouver Island

When Rande Cook first spotted the potted plant, he "hired" it on the spot.

“I call it my baby,” he laughs.

There was something about the snake plant that seemed to speak to him.

“I thought it would be a nice mascot in the gallery,” the artist smiles.

Like a sports team mascot, with leafy arms raised-up in a perpetual cheer, the plant seemed more than qualified to play the role of celebratory greeter at Rande's Leaf Modern art gallery.

“(Plants) bring a sense of life and joy,” he says.

And, it turns out, much more. But before Rande could know that about this plant, he had to explore what he already knew about his Indigenous culture.

“We have stories from the very beginning that there’s life in all you know,” Rande says. “Plants, animals, trees, everything.”

Rande’s been spending a lot of time experiencing the last remaining old growth forests with his wife Mona Cook, learning the science of how plants communicate from leading experts, and evolving his artwork to express that knowledge in a contemporary way.

“A lot of my work is very flowing and abstract,” Rande says. “But really it’s about that energy pulsating through nature.”

Which brings us back to the gallery mascot.

“You take these little electrodes and put them on the leaves,” Rande says as he connects the wires from the plant to what looks looks like a small wooden speaker.

Rande says the device senses the electrical variations in the plant, which are translated into music notes through this device.

The gallery is soon filled with the sounds of rhythmic, spa-like electronica.

“Our little mascot gained a voice!” Rande smiles, gently stroking a leaf, which leads to a subtle change in the music.

The plant now provides the soundtrack for the Leaf Modern (

Mona — who’s also the gallery director — says the music subtly changes throughout the day, depending on how the plant is touched, or when it's watered.

“There’s a beautiful zen that comes from listening to it,” Mona smiles, before wondering what the potential of the technology is.

“What about the plants in our garden? Our cucumbers? Do they play music?”

If one plant can transform from mascot to musician, one wonders what would happen if we took the time to listen to everything leafy in our lives. Just imagine what sort of band they could become. Top Stories

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