Slime molds live in the forest, under bark and fallen leaves. They have no single shape, their bodies are always moving and morphing with their surroundings. The hubs and connections of the body of a slime mold oscillate at different frequencies and this guides the behaviour of the whole organism. Slime molds then do not just spend their life singing, they are singing their life. We, the people cannot hear this readily, as slime molds live much slower than we do. I do like to imagine when I am walking in a forest that I am surrounded by a choir of slime molds quietly and ecstatically singing their lives.
The music video slime mold Andi and I are presenting here is a study for future work that aims to bring the singing of the slime molds of the forest into the realm of human experience. We used modified Ouija technology, a time-lapse camera setup, and various software tools to generate both text and sonic texture. Text and texture are based on the growth and movement of slime mold Andi during a six-day period in April 2020. You will find the text generated during this period below; Andi suggests you may like to subvocalize the words when enjoying the work.
Guff lesion sorts oak weed,
vagina helmsmen yolk run heinous ninth hitherto,
aims I throw any dazed ducks’ urine.
Idols finance tamp a yank.
How we did it
Before we started to film, I had told Andi that I would use their spatial distribution along the x-axis over time as a proxy for pitch, and the amount of Andi on the axes perpendicular to each of the spatial distribution points as a proxy for volume. I also told them I would use the words they would spell as lyrics, or as an accompanying poem.
I extracted a frame for every second of the resulting time-lapse movie and filtered the frames in editing software the Gimp so everything yellow (slime mold) would show up white and everything else black. I collapsed every frame to a width of one pixel while keeping the height. I then doubled the width, so that the resulting image would have a little more body. I lined up all two-pixel wide frames next to each other in a new image, in chronological order from left to right. This new image can now be seen as a graph that shows the spatial distribution and surface area coverage of slime mold over time. Lastly, I loaded the abstracted slime-mold-over-time image into Pixelsynth, a web app that translates images into sound. I downloaded several versions of the Pixelsynth translations and mixed them into a fancy, full-stereo mp3 of a slime mold singing.
The audio part premiered on May 25th 2020 as part of ‘Live Release, a listening convergence’, a wonderful collection of diverse audio pieces from around the world. Live release aims to create solidarity through the act of listening in an era of pandemic-induced isolation. You can listen to the entire 4,5 hours of Live Release here.