Yann Seznec, Patrick Hickey 1 Jan 2010

The Secret Sounds of Spores


Hidden under every mushroom, invisible to the naked eye, thousands of spores fall and are blown away by the tiniest current of wind. Shining a laser underneath a protected mushroom makes these spores visible.


The Secret Sounds of Spores installation - This is an image of the laser reading the falling mushroom spores. Image taken from the website of the artist and can be found here .

In “The Secret Sounds of Spores”, Yann Seznec and Patrick Hickey make these spores visual and audible, creating a stunning musical installation that reveals the depth, beauty, and inherent artistry present in fungi.

The focus of the project is a mushroom, which is housed in a glass bell jar. Mushrooms naturally discharge spores throughout their adult lifetime, however these are generally invisible to the naked eye. The bell jar serves both to protect the mushrooms in the installation and to allow the spores to fall without any disruption due to air currents.


Mushroom Sounds - Installation that makes spores visual and audible. Taken at the Paddestoelen Paradijs Simone Schoutens

In order to make the falling spores visible, a laser beam is shone underneath the mushrooms, below the gills. Any spores passing through this beam flash briefly in the light. These light patterns are captured by a digital video camera, which sends the video data to a computer, where it is analyzed in real time. The computer then controls a series of custom built musical notes hanging from the ceiling. Music is therefore created by the mushroom instantly, and the listener can see the connection between the falling mushroom spores and the sounds being created.

This project was supported by an Alt-w award from New Media Scotland. The distribution of Alt-w awards is managed by New Media Scotland and funded by Scottish Screen, Scottish Arts Council and SICSA.