Love Hultén's latest experiment turns a cactus garden into a generative synthesizer

Artist and craftsman Love Hultén has been responsible for some of the most weird and wonderful instrument designs in recent memory. 

Stacking up tons of gear inside lovingly crafted outer shells, Hultén reimagines once-messy set-ups as fantastical singular instruments that often feature unexpected points of difference. His collaboration with Teenage Engineering included a custom-built sequencer shaped like a turntable, and other designs have featured built-in tape loopers, stepper motors and a choir made up of 25 sets of plastic teeth.

The latest creation to come out of Hultén's extravagant imagination is Desert Songs, a custom-built instrument that translates the biofeedback produced by cacti into musical notes. The cacti are hooked up to a device called PlantWave, which picks up on slight electrical variations across electrodes and transforms these into MIDI signals. 

These MIDI notes are then sent through a Korg NTS-1 for waveshaping and through a Hologram Microcosm pedal to be "drenched in atmosphere". The cacti garden inside the synth houses a variety of specimens, and the user can choose between the output of different cacti using the patch points on the synth's outer casing. The results sound, as you might expect, spine-tinglingly psychedelic. 

In true Love Hultén fashion, Desert Songs looks like something straight out of a Soviet-era laboratory or a '70s sci-fi - it's even been equipped with a "custom MIDI visualizer" that generates visuals akin to those you might find by putting the cacti under a microscope. 

We've seen this type of set-up before - usually TikTokers inaccurately claiming to be enabling plants to compose their own music - but none have done it quite as impressively as Hultén, who explains the technique far more candidly: "It's not magic and the plants are not composing, it's simply biofeedback creating true organic "randomness". Who needs LFOs when you've got a few spiky friends to hand?

Follow Love Hultén on Instagram.


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