Tom Wall is a West Michigan rock star who uses plants as bandmates. He uses a device that harnesses the electricity in plants, which then turns those impulses into musical notes.

"Much like you talk to a person that doesn’t know your language ... you can still understand the basic reactions like the excitement of somebody, or the melancholy," Tom explained.He insists the plants are talking to us through the music. But can they really do that?


LIVINGSTON: Other researchers, like Mia Howard, are less optimistic. She studies ecology and evolutionary biology at University of Michigan. I played her a bit of plant music too. But unlike Frank, this was her first time hearing anything like this.(sequoia plant music)

MIA HOWARD: I don’t know. I've never heard a plant make noises like that before.LIVINGSTON: Mia’s research focuses on how plants defend themselves from predators in their ecosystems. She says there are risks that come with personifying plants too much. And that can happen a lot, skewing scientific findings.

HOWARD: There's definitely information there that we could take something from. But I don't think we were the intended audience for these signals…But I think these plants are probably just living and just having their water move through them and responding to stresses and not necessarily making music for the reasons that humans make music.

LIVINGSTON: But, Mia says plants do communicate. Just not in ways we can hear. Plants send out chemical signals that are noticed by other species. They can protect themselves with these signals or even warn others of danger.

HOWARD: Their metabolism changes a lot when they're under stress. And a lot of times these chemicals in their metabolism can get released into the air.

LIVINGSTON: It's exciting to think about plants speaking in secret languages – chemical or electronic.

HOWARD: I think it's good to talk to your plants.

LIVINGSTON: Do you talk to your plants?

HOWARD: Yeah, sometimes. And I think, yeah, it's a good thing to talk to your plant, they might not hear you. But if anything, you're adding more carbon dioxide to their environment. And they like that.

LIVINGSTON: But, it’s important to remember plants are very different from us.

HOWARD: I think there's a danger in reading too much into it. And thinking that these plants are trying to communicate with us when these plants might just be expressing their physiological state.

LIVINGSTON: So, back to the big question, can we speak with plants through music?

These scientists say, probably not. Even if Tom’s device is detecting the sequoia’s vitals, the plant is likely unaware it’s creating a song.