Playing Music to Help Plants Grow: The Ideas of Dorothy Retallack
Playing plants music to help them grow is an idea that first gained popularity in the 1970's after the publication of the book: The Sound of Music and Plants, by Dorothy Retallack in 1973.
Retallack did various experiments in order to find out the effect of what happens if you play plants music.
She experimented with the length of time that music was played and also attempted to discover the style of music plants like most.
Dorothy Retallack’s experiments took place at the Colorado Women's College in Denver and involved three Biotronic Control Chambers.
She placed plants in each chamber and played the plants music and sounds through speakers.
In one series of early experiments she played the note F for extended periods of time, but most of her later focus was on the effects of different styles of music.
"Why do people write books? Many reasons, of course. In my case it is to put down chronologically the story of the phenomenon of the effect of music on plants and to clear up some misconceptions and misquotes which cannot help but happen when the various news media and publications excerpt from a long article about the report of my experiments."— Dorothy Retallack, from the foreword to The Sound of Music and Plants
The Main Findings of Dorothy Retallack
According to Retallack, the best music for plant growth is soothing, positive music. Plants don't like harsh, heavy, angry or discordant sounds.
Three or four hours of music is the optimum amount, according to Retallack. Play plants music for longer than this and the effects tend to always be negative, whatever style of music is played.
Examples of Positive Soothing Music
Older classical music such as works by the composer, J S Bach is recommended if you want to help plants grow.
Smooth and melodic jazz music, such as material by the instrumentalist and singer, Louis Armstrong, is also good to play them.
Certain styles of World Music, such as Indian sitar music was also found to have a positive effect.
Examples of Negative Harsh Music
Heavy rock music had a detrimental effect on plant development, according to Dorothy Retallack, who played her plants Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix.
Discordant modern classical music, such as Arnold Schoenberg also seemed to be bad for plants and should be avoided.
Certain music was recorded by Retallack as not having either a positive or negative effect when used to help plants grow. Country and Western music was one such style that fitted into this category.
Criticisms of Dorothy Retallack's Work
Although Dorothy Retallack went to great lengths to make her experiments scientific, the experimental conditions that Retallack used were not thorough and consistent enough to be fully scientific, according to some critics.
She was also a rather eccentric lady with strong personal biases. She thought that plants were capable of ESP, for instance, and speculated that the reason why plants didn’t like heavy rock music was because of the lyrics.
Critics have also pointed out that the styles of music that Reallack said that plants liked and disliked conformed to her own musical tastes.