Amplified Cactus

Amplified Cactus

An amplified cactus is a cactus plant used as a musical instrument. It harnesses the acoustic properties of a cactus (preferably a Denmoza or Geohintonia), by applying contact microphones and amplifying their projection and tone. The effect is somewhat ethereal: Vivien Schweitzer of The New York Times reports ‘Jason Treuting played an amplified cactus, running his hand over the plant’s unfriendly spikes to produce an alluring sound like a babbling brook.’

The amplified cactus is a medium rarely written for, even in the contemporary music genre. John Cage, perhaps one of the most recognizable names in the contemporary music genre, composed Child of Tree (1975) and Branches (1976) for what he described as ‘amplified plant materials.’ Cage was a large proponent of chance music and felt that the organic nature of music without man-made instruments was very strong and influential. Another of the most famous pieces for amplified cactus is called Degrees of Separation ‘Grandchild of Tree’ by Paul Rudy which received mention at the Bourges International Competition for Electroacoustic Music in 2000.

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