Transplanted: Discovering Scottish Plant Life Through Music

A school assembly with two people playing a cello and a violin and an image of Sneezwort behind themExplore the connection between plant life and music with musicians Sonia Cromarty (cello) and Alice Rickards (violin), who have been visiting secondary schools in urban areas of Scotland as part of their Grow Wild funded project, Transplanted.

Plants, wildflowers and fungi are vital to human existence; from the air we breathe to the food we eat, medicines, cultural identity and creating a sense of place. They also provide great inspiration for the creation of art.

Organised by Enterprise Music Scotland, Transplanted helps people discover the unique characteristics of Scottish plant life and then use these as inspiration for creating new pieces of music.

The project began in 2014[1] inspired by the works of John Oswald, a baroque composer who wrote ‘Airs for the Seasons’, a remarkable compendium of 96 duos for violin and cello, each depicting a different plant or flower.

Sonia and Alice have since commissioned 8 new works by Scottish composers, asking each to write a piece about a plant, lichen or fungi native to Scotland. The duo also created a project delivered in primary schools and communities, encouraging people of all ages to find out more about Scottish plant life.

Hand holding a notebook with the word Transplanted on the front and pictures of plants

In June and September 2019, Sonia and Alice took Transplanted to four secondary schools in urban areas of Scotland. Each visit began with an interactive concert at the school in which Sonia and Alice shared some of the music and stories behind Transplanted so far.

The project connected each participating school to a local green space in their community: The Hidden Gardens, Seven Lochs, Ninewells Community Garden and Jupiter Urban Wildlife Space. The school pupils were given a tour, learning about the things that grow in the space and the conservation work being carried out. They we’re given time to take notes and make drawings of their favourite plants in their Grow Wild workbooks, designed especially for the project.

A graphic music score showing notes and words and the flow of music with flowers as well

After lunch, the groups then worked with Sonia and Alice to create new music about their recent discoveries. Graphic scores were used as a way of notating the music, meaning pupils of all musical experiences could get involved.

Each day ended with a short performance of the new works with pieces taking inspiration from the history, uses for, lifecycles, colours and smells of plants, wildflowers and fungi.

We particularly enjoyed the sunny weather at The Hidden Gardens which meant the pupils could perform their new compositions outside to visitors wandering through the space.

A group of people standing outdoors watching young people play instruments

“What a fabulous day and a fabulous project...The pupils were wonderful and great how everyone joined in on the tour around the gardens.” (The Hidden Gardens Staff Member)

“Thank you so much for a wonderful day! I can honestly say it was one of my favourite days in education - the pupils had a fantastic time and learned so much from the experience!” (Classroom Music Teacher)

“Thanks again for coming. It was a great day and a joy to be involved in such a worthwhile project.” (Jupiter Urban Wildlife Space)

“Pupils have given very positive feedback of the experience and can be seen to have more confidence in composition – particularly due to their success on the day.” (Classroom Music Teacher) 

We are really pleased to have had Grow Wild’s support enabling us to deliver Transplanted to secondary schools. Feedback has shown that the workshops have helped to support the pupils with their school composition course work by exploring different ways of composing and showing that working with a stimulus can aid creativity.

With so many different species and characteristics, plants, wildflowers and fungi are a great starting point for finding inspiration. By discovering more about these, participants were also able to hear about the importance of conserving them.

The tour of a local green space allowed for hands on learning and we hope has created a connection between participants and the green space in their community which can be visited all year round.

Three girls playing instruments, sitting on green green grass on a sunny day beneath a tree

References

[1] Previous versions of Transplanted have been supported by Creative Scotland, Enterprise Music Scotland, Plantlife Scotland, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, North Highland Initiative, Hope Scott Trust and Glasgow Natural History Society.

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