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Singing to Plants Is a Psychedelic Practice

Plant whisperer Paige Emery on her new album 'Intercommunications,' out now on Leaving Records.

DoubleBlind Mag

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Updated July 1, 2024

On the evening of the Spring Equinox, artist and plant whisperer Paige Emery stood over a crowd of yogis, ambient music heads, and other assorted characters of LA’s spiritually-adjacent music and wellness communities. The evening air still held traces of winter’s chilly bite, which made for a cozy atmosphere in the wood-paneled yoga center where a vernal celebration was taking place. Guests held steaming cups of tea infused with passionflower and took their seats on yoga blankets.

Draped in a robe in her signature shade of Yves Klein blue, Paige led a ritual opening for the space, inviting everyone to imagine a sacred garden. In this garden, she continued, we could plant seeds—ideas of intentions and future actions—that could help our communities and the Earth. It is important to be open and receptive, she encouraged, “to the subtle forms of communication from plants.”

Then, Paige began singing in low, meditative tones, looping her vocals over a minimalist palette of notes played on her keyboard. The sounds pooled over each other like waves over the audience, most of whom were lying on their backs with their eyes closed. The feeling was of being washed over by glistening ripples of resonances and drifting into a hypnotic state of tranquility.

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The songs that Paige performed were taken from her debut album, Intercommunications, which is out today on Leaving Records. The release explores the concept of inter-species communication, specifically through the practice of dialoguing with plants. Intercommunications sprang out of Paige’s daily ritual of singing to the flowers in her garden as she watered and meditated with them in the morning, with the songs springing out of the vocal utterances she’d make during this daily ritual.

Opening up to plant dialogue, Paige explains, is a practice that requires tapping into emotional frequencies that bypass the mind’s rational mental models. Many people experience this form of communication while sitting in mushroom and ayahuasca ceremonies, where the “spirit” of these powerful psychoactive plants often communicates messages to those under the medicine’s hold. The album charts various states of being that can occur through this process, with each song’s formal structure representing a different modality of plant interaction. “Enduring,” for example, is an ode to the physical discipline required to sit in a plant ceremony when the body is often wracked with discomfort and pain.

Intercommunications explores the intersection between experimental electronic music and plant medicine songs, offering a more avant-garde approach to New Age meditation music. It also dives into the fascinating realm of inter-species communication, a concept that could be increasingly salient in the near future. After all, as Paige explains, opening ourselves to deeper communication with plants is not so different from the conversations growing around artificial intelligence. Thus, deepening our ability to communicate with non-human consciousness is a likely step in the evolution—and preservation—of human life.

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Intercommunications came out of your practice of singing to your plants. Could you tell me more about plant communication and how it also relates to sitting with plants in ceremony? 

Singing is a form of meditation. I would sing to plants while watering them and just working in the garden, and I’ve learned that the strongest communication is through song, and often a sort of song that dissociates you from rational language. 

I had been exploring plant communication for a long time, which had to do with the deconstruction of language, and where rational enlightenment under colonialism has gotten us. A primary condition of undoing these narratives and ways of thinking is to be open to plant communication. Then, through sitting with entheogenic plants a lot, I learned that a way to open up a pathway of communication, and ask for help and healing, is through song. That’s the meeting place that forms a bridge across these different communications across species. 

Do you think that communicating with plants is, you know, fundamentally different from communicating with humans? 

You could talk to humans the way you talk to plants, but you can’t talk to plants the way you do with humans. I’m building a relationship with a being that has consciousness, so I introduce myself the same way I would to a person, with these common courtesies. The difference is that you really have to turn off your mind. Conventional analytical thought-scapes that are mechanically governing our perception will get in the way of being open to something that’s not us. You have to go through a lot of undoing in order to be open to something that is not human. First thing you have to forefront is your heart, and also tuning into your unconscious mind and your internal world. To get your body and senses to turn on. 

Do you have a preferred plant to communicate with?

I think Mugwort and Calla Lily have been the closest and most consistent plants I’ve been working with. Mugwort is a plant of dreaming, and also known as one of the plants that is helping you to communicate with other plants, actually. So she’s been a kind of opener for me. 

Calla Lilies are flowers of death and rebirth, and they’ve helped me tune into a lot of these cyclical relationships that I’ve been exploring. These nonlinear constant transmutations that are happening, and how to flow with that. 

Speaking of cycles, every song in the album is a stage in a certain cycle that you’re charting, right? 

Yeah, exactly. Each song is a state of being and part of an arc of a cyclical journey. There are so many layers in healing with plants, and not all are easy and loving. For instance, the first song is “Opening,” and you have to first create the container, which is so important. The second one is “Sensing,” you have to turn on your senses. 

But then you get into maybe more abstract, unexpected territory with “Calling,” and “Following,” and “Swelling,” which are not necessarily the first thing that comes to my mind when I’m thinking of plants. 

Well, while this album is super inspired by conventional plant meditation albums, I have a love for experimental electronic music, which I’m already making. So, I wanted to find this bridge across genre spaces and see what that meeting place could look like. Also, when you’re dealing with plants, there is a lot of disorientation. There’s ego death and a lot of shadow. There’s a lot of: who’s speaking to me–is it me, is it the plant? Is it other parts of myself that aren’t me? I was thinking about how there’s a form of chaos within the harmony, intermingling with darkness and the strangeness that’s a part of this whole journey. 

“Following” was this feeling of allowing yourself to go into a trance state, and the discomfort that you have to go through to get to the other side. There’s all this painful discomfort that comes from the initial process of metabolizing psychedelic plants, but you’re just being like, OK, I’m just gonna trust and go with it. Once you do, we break through to the other side. 

“Swelling” is more vocal-based; I was playing with a lot of deconstruction of language. With plant communication, it’s this fragile balancing of trying to turn off your mind while still communicating. It’s almost like dreaming. “Enduring” is about the discipline of like, sitting up straight for hours, or this quality of going beyond your human capacity of what you think you’re physically capable of doing. 

What was your process like of making each of these songs, did you usually start with a vocal? 

Each of them started with me humming in my garden. I would go record very stream-of-consciousness, and be done. I didn’t do much after editing. I use one single keyboard that I’ve had since I was 15 years old, and it’s the only keyboard I’ve ever used for all of my music. I made all the songs really quick. I wanted them to have a raw feeling. 

At the same time I was learning hypnotherapy from a hypnotherapist while I was making these. So I was thinking a lot about what makes me go into trance states, the processes to connect with my unconscious. That’s a big part of why these songs are pretty minimal and repetitive. At the same time, a lot of the music for hypnotherapy is really cheesy, and was totally ruining the vibe for me. So I was like, I  would love to do something that maybe you’d listen to anyway, like an ambient electronic track. 

I agree, a lot of new age meditation music can be a little bit cheesy and predictable. What’s cool about your music is that it’s connected to psychedelics and plant meditation music, but also the world of electronic music and Leaving Records.

I wanted to overcome this compartmentalization that happens where it’s like, healing happens over here, and normal life happens over here. No, we’re always having to do this work and think about intimate difficult things we have to work through in whatever spaces we’re in. A lot of the dialogues around ecological consciousness and critical ecology are so unembodied that I feel they completely miss the point, and that’s something that’s important for me to address: if we’re going to talk about caring for the earth and kin, we have to be doing this work at the most internal level. A lot of the discourse is not connected to how we touch the ground, how we touch the soil, how we look at a plant that we’re walking by. 

It’s also about the importance of humility as a preliminary condition. It’s disorienting to give up this sense of selfhood we’re attached to language, in order to be receptive to all of these other types of languages that can help us coexist. 

Would you trip to this album? 

I would trip to it, but I wouldn’t play it at a sound bath. They’re not pure meditation songs because a lot of them have noisy abrasive instrumentals. There are a lot of raw, honest things that you have to work through in your body [when you trip], and these less gentle or predictable noises that come in, they shift something in your body where it hits you in the gut, and you’re like, Oh, I needed to work through that. The sounds help you access something you maybe otherwise wouldn’t have. 

Do you think that making music for psychedelics is fertile ground for musicians to be exploring right now? 

I think we have to create new ways of relating to these practices. We’ve lost a lot of traditional ritual practice in Western capitalist society, and obviously there are a lot of indigenous communities that still do [traditional ceremonies], but in an inverse to appropriation, we also have to find ways of creating new rituals that make sense in our current time. We have to create new music that is also in conversation with this great shift in consciousness happening right now, where people are wanting to connect, go deep, and wake up in these ways. 

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I’d love to hear about the music and communities that have inspired you. 

I’m releasing this on Leaving Records, and that’s such a resonant place to release, because they really are so conscious about community building, and being ecologically conscious and environmentally friendly. They’re putting out music in these weird spaces that defy genres, raise consciousness, and work with plants. 

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As far as sonically, it’s everything from spiritual chanting from traditional medicine songs, hypnosis, and electronic musicians like Huerco S and Grouper. Then there’s just listening to nature too, because a lot of these are field recordings. 

How about existing music for plants, like the album Plantasia? 

Although I do love Plantasia, I didn’t want my album to be like that, because I feel there is already this genre forming of “this is what music for plants is.” 

So how do you think that this differs from typical ‘plant music’? 

Well, it’s definitely eclectic. It takes you through a journey of harmony and chaos, death and life, and these moments of orientation and reorientation and gentleness and abrasiveness. It’s not a smooth ride the whole time. And there’s a lot of vocal experimentation that’s happening as well. Because a lot of communicating with plants is very much the same conversations going on right now with machines. So I had these weird electronic effects going in there too. This is part of the same territory that’s being explored overall of what our relationship to the nonhuman or post-human is. 

Where do you think the future of plant communication lies? 

By the way, I specifically did not use plant midis and plant sensors. I don’t think that’s where it’s at. I think those technologies can help us respect non-human intelligence. But I think the actual communication comes from embodied practices, of listening to the heart, and the deep humility of being open to something that has deep wisdom within the earth. A lot of times, these techno solutions actually just further our human condition. But I think it’s going to come down to this very simple, raw form of just tuning in and listening to the earth.

Intercommunications is out now on Leaving Records.

*This story originally appeared on Michelle Lhooq’s newsletter Rave New World

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