Remember those song birds we used to hear in the fields? The sounds of animals in
nature singing a symphony of soft and subtle sounds as all things flow together to create
a living and vibrant concerto? Science is now showing that these sounds actually do
influence the growth of plants. Researchers have demonstrated that plants respond to
sounds in pro-found ways which not only influence their overall health but also increase
the speed of growth and the size of the plant.
Many people remember hearing in the late 1960's and 1970's about the idea that plants
respond to music. There were lots of projects in high schools and colleges which
successfully tested the effects of sound on plant growth. It was determined through
repetitive testing that plants did respond to music and sound. The first book which
brought this idea to most of us was: The Secret Life of Plants, by Peter Tompkins and
Christopher Bird (Harper & Row 1973). In this best selling book a number of astounding
revelations about plant growth were revealed. The idea that plants were influenced by
sound in both positive and negative ways was demonstrated by several world class
scientists at that time.
When we think of plants being affected by sunlight we are really looking at the effect
of a portion of the electromagnetic spectrum on plants that portion which includes
visible light. It should not surprise us that sound also impacts plant growth because it
is, in essence, an extension to other parts of the electromagnetic spectrum.
The science was first disclosed in an article by Andy Coghlan which appeared in New
Scientist (May 28, 1994, p.10). The article confirmed old ideas by placing them in a
scientific context. It tells an excellent story about the impact of sound on plant growth,
bringing to light what was before considered esoteric or mysterious science. After reading
this short article and those which follow in this issue of the Flashpoints a good deal
more will be thought of "singing gardeners" and "plant communicators."
Many people remember reading accounts of plant growth being stimulated by sound waves.
At that time, "talking" to plants and playing plants different types of music
was used to influence growth. A number of people were using these techniques without being
able to completely explain the phenomena. This article is part of that story a story
which could have a profound impact on the way we grow and produce our food.
Eccentrics who sing to their plants? People playing melodies to organic matter with the
expectation that it will help stimulate growth? These ideas were the thoughts of some
"non-scientists" until French physicist and musician, Joel Sternheimer,
discovered the mechanism for how plants respond to the stimulation of sound waves.
Sternheimer com-poses musical note sequences which help plants grow and has applied for an
international patent1 covering the concept.
The sound sequences are not random but are carefully constructed melodies. Each note is
chosen to correspond to an amino acid in a protein with the full tune corresponding to the
entire protein. What this means is that the sounds sequenced in just the right order
results in a tune which is unique and harmonizes with the internal structure of a specific
plant type. Each plant type has a different sequence of notes to stimulate its growth.
According to New Scientist, "Sternheimer claims that when plants "hear" the
appropriate tune, they produce more of that protein. He also writes tunes that inhibit the
synthesis of proteins." In other words, desirable plants could be stimulated to grow
while undesirable plants (weeds for instance) could be inhibited. This is done with
electromagnetic energy, in this case sound waves, pulsed to the right set of frequencies
thus effecting the plant at an energetic and submolecular level.
Sternheimer translates into audible vibrations of music the quantum vibrations that
occur at the molecular level as a protein is being assembled from its constituent amino
acids. By using simple physics he is able to compose music which achieves this
correlation. Sternheimer indicated to New Scientist that each musical note which he
composes for the plant is a multiple of original frequencies that occur when amino acids
join the protein chain. He says that playing the right notes stimulates the plant and
increases growth. This idea is particularly interesting because it may lead to the
eventual obsolescence of fertilizers used to stimulate plant growth. This new method would
be cheap and relatively easily provided throughout the world, thereby avoiding many of the
problems associated with the extraction, shipping, environmental and economic costs of
Playing the right tune stimulates the formation of a plant's protein. "The length
of a note corresponds to the real time it takes for each amino acid to come after the
next," according to Sternheimer, who studied quantum physics and mathematics at
Princeton University in New Jersey.
In experiments by Sternheimer, he claims that tomatoes exposed to his melodies grew
two-and-a-half times as large as those which were untreated. Some of the treated plants
were sweeter in addition to being significantly larger. The musical sequences stimulated
three tomato growth promoters, cytochrome C, and thaumatin (a flavoring compound).
According to Sternheimer in the New Scientist, "Six molecules were being played to
the tomatoes for a total of three minutes a day."
Sternheimer also claims to have stopped the mosaic virus by playing note sequences that
inhibited enzymes required by the virus. This virus would have harmed the tomato plants.
The note sequences used by the inventor are very short and need only be played one
time. For example, the sequence for for cytochrome C lasts just 29 seconds. According to
Sternheimer, "on average, you get four amino acids played per second" in this
The inventor also issued a warning for those repeating his experiments. He warns to be
careful with the sound sequences because they can affect people. "Don't ask a
musician to play them," he says. Sternheimer indicated that one of his musicians had
difficulty breathing after playing the tune for cytochrome C.
Plant stimulation by sound may have profound implications. The idea that a cheap source
of "electromagnetic fertilizer" has been developed should be exciting for many
third world countries. At a time when human progress can be made through simple solutions
in agriculture, resources are being wasted in the extraction of mineral and oil compounds
for fertilizers. If this method of fertilization were followed the human intellect would
prove superior to physical capital in terms of distribution and production of this new
The idea that sound can have a healing effect on humans is being explored by a number
of independent scientists around the world. The know-ledge of the "sound effect on
proteins" offers insights to health practitioners of the benefits to humans. In
addition to the favorable economic factors, the increased vitality of the plant substances
can positively impact the health of all humans that consume them.
The patent includes melodies for cytochrome oxidase and cytochrome C which are two
proteins involved in respiration. It also includes sound sequences for troponin C which
regulates calcium uptake in muscles. Further, a tune was developed for inhibiting chalcone
synthase which is an enzyme involved in making plant pigments.