Chelsea Flower Show 2023: Turning Mushrooms Into Tunes


What do mushrooms sound like? You can find out at this year's Chelsea Flower Show, thanks to a special soundtrack curated by our founder Brian d'Souza.

The garden show, held for five days by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) on the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea in Chelsea, London, is attended by 157,000 visitors each year.

This year, guests will be able to visit the Silver-medal winner Balance Garden by The Centre for Mental Health, which includes a 'mushroom den' made from a reclaimed steel-clad shipping container.

Designed by Wild City Studio, the garden features a multi-speaker sound installation by Swell founder Brian d'Souza.

All life forms emit electronic signals. I've converted them into midi-notes which is a way of digitising music and used that to compile a soundtrack.

Thanks to PlantWave technology - which Brian previously relied on to capture the sound of herbs in his garden - the electrical variations of various wildflowers and mushroom species featured in the garden were picked up and converted into MIDI signals. Brian then turned them into a soundscape in his studio.

The final piece is, in Brian's words, 'quite beguiling, uncanny, slightly moody, yet peaceful'.

You can listen to the piece here.

I have used multiple speakers hidden across the garden to create a living soundscape, all composed by the plants themselves.

Jon Davies & Steve William, the designers behind this project, have added purple lights inside the container to highlight ten species of mushrooms - both edible and medicinal - from the beloved shiitake and oyster to varieties like reishi and lion's mane.

It's a first for mushrooms as the non-plants have never been celebrated at the Chelsea Flower Show before, though the world's biggest collection of fungal specimens is kept at London's Kew Gardens.

The power of mushrooms is indisputable; from supporting the soil and plants in your garden by creating connections through the mycelium network to helping to break down plastics, the fungi universe is one we're yet to fully discover.

Psilocybin, a naturally occurring psychedelic prodrug compound produced by more than 200 species of fungi, has also been used in multiple studies to support the treatment of patients suffering from anxiety, depression, addiction, and chronic pain - something Brian has been involved in from a music curation perspective with The Centre for Psychedelic Research at Imperial College London.

The Chelsea Flower Show is on from May 22th - 27th.

Photos courtesy of Brian.