Ravi Shankar: mer för växter?

Minns ni Mozart-effekten? Nu när vi upptäckt att Mozart uppfann khyal tänkte vi att vi kan väl ge den en chans, det vill säga boken av Don Campbell. På sid 82 får vi möta Dan Carlson från Minnesotas svenskbygd:

First, he considered the times of the day when plant pores were most open, and discovered that plants grew best in the early morning when the birds were singing. Then it hit him. Perhaps certain types of music or nonmelodic sounds would stimulate plant growth.

Carlson devised cassette tapes that contained non-musical sounds (that is, sounds that we don’t consider true melody). He found a specialist in Minneapolis, Michael Holtz, who confirmed that certain music has vibrations and frequencies in common with birdsong. One of the first types of music he found to which plants seemed to respond is played by the sitar, the traditional stringed instrument from India. The sound of the sitar is not for all Western ears, but plants can’t seem to get enough of it.

Vilken Einstein, denne Holtz från Minneapolis, och vilken stilist denne Don Campbell. But plants can’t seem to … vi läser vidare:

Meanwhile, Dorothy Retallack, a graduate student at Temple Beull College in Denver, also began to experiment with plants and music. She constructed five small greenhouses and placed corn, squash, marigolds, zinnias, and petunias inside. The greenhouses were all the same size and received the same lighting, water, and soil. For several months, she played different types of music to plants in four of the chambers. (As a control, the fifth had no sounds piped in.) One group of plants got Bach, the second Indian classical music, the third loud rock, and the last county-western. She found that Bach and Indian music stirred the growth of the plants dramatically.

Stopp och belägg, Don Campbell! Var det inte i själva verket så att den indiska musiken fungerade bättre än Bach?

It’s certainly not pure science, and Mrs Dorothy Retallack is the first to concede it as she roars enthusiastically forward playing recorded music for her plants at Temple Buell College. It seems that the plants cringe and die when she plays them a regular diet of acid rock by the Led Zeppelin, the late Jimi Hendrix, or the now-disbanded Vanilla Fudge. The plants lean sharply away from the sound and die in a few weeks. Even their roots grow aslant, rejecting the music.

When she plays them Bach, or “La Paloma”, or, especially, Ravi Shankar’s classical Indian music, they flourish, with petunias turning their trumpet-like flowers toward the source of the music and even reaching their leaves out to hug the loudspeakers.

Det här var av Anthony Ripley i New York Times 21 februari 1977. Roligt, vi måste ha mer:

Also cringing and dying are some of the professors at Temple Buell, the former Colorado Women’s College that was renamed to honor one of its benefactors. They find the whole thing an excruciating embarrassment.

“We have been ridiculed professionally”, said one biologist in an emotional telephone call. Each time a national television network or newspaper or magazine writes of Mrs Retallack’s plants, the whole thing boils up again …

At Utah State University, Dr Frank B Salisbury of the Plant Science Department is a bit kinder.

“I don’t know what to make of it all”, he said. “It’s been going on since the 1950s. There was a report at the 1954 International Botanical Congress by a man from India who played violins to plants.”

Vi har inte kunnat ta reda på mer om denne violinist från 1954, och inte ens identifierat någon utgåva av ”proceedings” från konferensen där man skulle kunna läsa om honom, men måste bara berätta att ”The opening ceremony took place in the Grand Amphitheatre of the Sorbonne, where the Symphony Orchestra of the Republican Guard interspersed the proceedings with music by Mozart, Händel and Bach” (Lily Newton i European Journal of Phycology, 1:3, 13–15, 1955).

Nu kickar allmänbildningen in, på två fronter. Som allmänbildad är man lite trött på anekdoten om Bundu Khan som spelar sarangi för blommorna, men vi återger den väl ändå till fromma för någon nytillkommen läsare. Bundu Khan är inneboende hos Sheila Dhars familj och försvinner spårlöst en söndagförmiddag på den väl tilltagna egendomen, berättar hon i sina memoarer:

My father’s faithful valet, the smirking Jai Singh whom we all hated, was sent hunting every where without result. Half an hour after the panic set in we heard the faint, scratchy sounds of a sarangi. They seemed to be coming from the garden but we could not see anyone there. We followed my father in the direction of the sound and tracked it down to a tall, thick hedge of sweetpeas that divided the huge garden in front of our house into two sections. Ustad Bundu Khan was lying in the flower bed on the farther side, his instrument balanced on his chest and shoulder, his eyes closed, completely engrossed in the music he was playing. Even my father who prided himself on courtly manners did not know how to awaken such a great musician from his reverie or how to call out such a revered name aloud. Anyhow, with much fake coughing and embarrassed clearing of the throat my father managed to catch his attention. Ustad Bundu Khan opened his eyes, just a slit, and scrambled to his feet when he saw the concern on the faces of the small assemblage.

“It is spring time, and I was playing for the flowers”, he said in complete explanation.

Det andra allmänbildningen berättar är att ämnet går längre tillbaka i Indien än till någon konferens på 50-talet. Sir Jagdish Chandra Bose, idag mest känd som elektrofysiker som uppfann radion före Marconi men efter Tesla osv, forskade minst lika mycket på växters känsloliv som på elektronik. Han ska ha spelat musik för dem redan under 1900-talets första år och kommit fram till – och progressivt nog tog han detta till intäkt för evolutionen, ”that there is no abrupt break, but a uniform and continuous march of law” – att plantor växte bättre när de fick lyssa på ”pleasant music”.

Vi har inte hittat någon enda referens som beskriver närmare än ”pleasant music” vad Boses plantor föredrog, och ja, då har vi konsulterat tryckta böcker äldre än Wikipedia – men Sruti #157, 1997, vet berätta att den som uppmärksammade Bose på detta var ingen mindre än Omkarnath Thakurs pappa.

Panchamkauns egen forskning visar hur som helst att det hela fungerar – VK lyssnar på enorma mängder sitar och blir inte precis smalar^C^C^C är idag ungefär sexton meter lång.