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Registered: 08/04/01
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This guy hears music emanating from mushrooms...
    #2945526 - 07/30/04 05:48 PM (12 years, 8 months ago)

Saw this article in today's Guardian, thought you guys would enjoy. No mention of Cubensis, though I bet they pound out some MAD BEATS.

Play That Fungi Music

When Vaclav Halek looks at mushrooms, he hears music emanating from them. Vadim Prokhorov reports

Friday July 30, 2004
The Guardian

Can music and mushrooms be related? After all, they are back to back in the English dictionary. The Czech composer Vaclav Halek certainly thinks that there is a strong connection, or rather an intimate relationship, between sound and edible fungi. He has composed over 2,000 melodies which, he says, come directly from mushrooms. To be precise: "I record music that mushrooms sing to me."

They have been singing to him for nearly a quarter of a century. His first encounter with the phenomenon happened unexpectedly in 1980, when a mycologist friend of his invited him on a trip to a forest in search of rare mushrooms. "It was very dry, so for a while we could not find any mushrooms," says Halek. "Eventually we got lucky and found a type of mushroom called Tarzetta cupularis. It looked beautiful, so my friend set up his photo equipment and asked me to look through the lens to give my opinion about the picture frame. At the very moment I looked at the mushroom, I heard music."

Not believing his ears, he looked once more, and again he heard music, which appeared to emanate from the mushroom. "I heard an orchestra: harps, flutes and even a harpsichord were playing a melody."

Since then, Halek has registered the musical tradition of mushrooms in a book called The Musical Atlas of Mushrooms: How Mushrooms Sing, the first volume of which was recently published by the Prague-based company Fontana. The attractive volume contains the scores of 42 songs and is accompanied by colour photographs and a CD. The mushroom melodies also form the foundation for the composer's Second Symphony, a 30-minute work in three movements that he has entitled Mycocosmos.

Halek still explores the woods around Prague for those specimens whose music he has not yet recorded. "I believe each mushroom has a specific idea given to it," he says. "That idea is reflected in a mushroom's melody." The melodies, which last less than a minute, range from lyrically nostalgic and plaintive to playful and sprightly, from sombre to majestic, spacious and otherworldly.

Surprisingly, Halek says there is no musical difference between edible and poisonous mushrooms: the latter produce no menacing or threatening sound. Nor did any of the mushrooms sound horrified when picked up. "I often bring mushrooms home and only then listen to their music," says Halek. And, after writing down received messages, the composer admits he may end up eating the objects of his study.

Halek, 67, who graduated from the Prague Academy of Music, was not popular with the socialist government of Czechoslovakia. A devout Catholic, he could not find any permanent work, while his compositions were hardly performed. He had some success composing film and theatre music, and made a living playing the organ at a church. Now a pensioner, he lives in a small apartment in a Soviet-style complex in one of Prague's boroughs. His music remains largely unknown, although there has been progress: the music director of the Czech Philharmonic asked him for a copy of his Second Symphony, and the work was recorded in its entirety when the film director Zdenek Zaoral decided to use the music in his 1988 film Poutnici (Wayfarers).

Czech music has always been closely connected to nature. Smetana, Dvorak and Janacek often remarked on the inspiration they found in contact with the Bohemian hills, forests and rivers. This link to, and appreciation of, nature is essential to the Czech people who, during their days off, escape to the forests and woods to find tranquillity and mushrooms. The avid mushroom-pickers who encounter a strange figure prostrate on the ground, holding a pencil and manuscript paper in his hands, are startled. Yet no scepticism can erode Halek's passion for mushrooms, and his link to nature is not limited to fungi. "I hear the music of trees, flowers and minerals, and I hear the music in people's voices," he says.

Halek is not the only composer to find mushrooms fascinating. John Cage was an expert in mycology and co-founder of the New York Mycological Society. He often used the names of mushrooms in the texts of his compositions, saying that he could never keep mushrooms and music separate. "I am sure that mushrooms in dropping their spores make a sound," he once said.

"Cage believed he could hear the mushrooms in the woods," says Gary Lincoff, a former president of the North American Mycological Society, "but I think [he said it] with tongue in cheek. I think we now have the technology to record the spore dispersal, and that you can amplify the sound mushrooms make while growing, but it is nothing you would want to sit and listen to for 20 minutes.

"If Mr Halek uses extrasensory powers," continues Lincoff, "then the problem is whether other people can duplicate his experience." Is Halek's phenomenon something that reveals a hidden reality that any of us can tap into or perceive, or is it simply an individual experience?

"The first encounter Mr Halek had [with the music of mushrooms] could be a case of synaesthesia," says Peter Grossenbacher of Naropa University at Boulder, Colorado. Synaesthesia is when people experience the simultaneous blending of different senses - when one sensory experience triggers another, creating a sort of sensory fusion. Many artists were synaesthetes, including the composers Scriabin and Liszt, possibly Rimsky-Korsakov, certainly Gershwin and Messiaen; the painters Kandinsky and David Hockney; poets Rimbaud and Baudelaire and the writer Nabokov, whose entire family was synaesthetic.

"A hallmark of synaesthesia is that it is very idiosyncratic, peculiar to each person," says Grossenbacher. "So rather than tuning into some hidden reality that can be shared, they are having individual experiences." Messiaen once tried to explain his synaesthetic experience to an interviewer: "When I hear music, I see in the mind's eye colours which move with the music. This is not imagination, nor is it a psychic phenomenon. It is an inward reality."

For Halek, hearing mushrooms sing is a spiritual experience. "When I find a mushroom I want to set to music, I sit on a block of wood and put the mushroom in front of me. Then I concentrate on it and pray, because I want to understand the specific essence of that mushroom. When I feel ready, I examine it and then breathe in, smelling its body. Shortly, I can hear a motif. However, I always check if the motif corresponds to the mushroom. Only then, I write down the tune. During writing, I check if the music agrees with the mushroom. When I finish, I experience a feeling of joy, and I thank God for being able to write the music."

Cage must have felt the same. His tribute to their mystery comes in the last stanza of his 1979 poem Mushrooms:

they'll be separated froM the rest of creation
and pUt in a kingdom
by themSelves.
all of tHis is an attempt
to stRaighten
Our understanding of these plants, which perhaps
are not plants at all. so far they've
Managed to remain
juSt as mysterious as they ever were.


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Re: This guy hears music emanating from mushrooms... [Re: Revelation]
    #2945597 - 07/30/04 06:06 PM (12 years, 8 months ago)


And, after writing down received messages, the composer admits he may end up eating the objects of his study.

:lol: :mushroom2:

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Re: This guy hears music emanating from mushrooms... [Re: Organic]
    #2948450 - 07/31/04 02:28 PM (12 years, 8 months ago)

Bump for victory.


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It's all in the mind

Registered: 01/24/13
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Last seen: 1 year, 2 months
Re: This guy hears music emanating from mushrooms... [Re: Revelation]
    #17610006 - 01/25/13 06:34 PM (4 years, 2 months ago)


interesting ... i will listen closeley to my next batch :smile:

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Re: This guy hears music emanating from mushrooms... [Re: ralf]
    #17610084 - 01/25/13 06:52 PM (4 years, 2 months ago)


ralf said:

interesting ... i will listen closeley to my next batch :smile:


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