Plantasia / Mort Garson
I can’t remember where or when I first heard Mort Garson’s Plantasia, his 1976 record of “warm earth music for plants…and the people who love them.” Opening with dainty, quivery tones before exploding into a trumpet call to all flora, it’s majestic and magic and soothing. That children’s-public-broadcast-show sound is so distinctly ’70s; it’s a memory that doesn’t belong to me but that I find myself nostalgic for.
I found the album because, I felt, my plants needed assistance. It was the first time I’d taken care of my own plants--my pets--and there was something markedly adult about this moment, a kind of rite of passage into selfhood and the responsibility of decisions made without guidance or suggestion. I needed these plants. I was living in New York City and my asthma made my lungs heavy and obstructed, and there was a desperate, completely physiological need in my body for something green and bright. I would learn to care for living things, I told myself; in turn, they’d purify my pollution-clogged room. I put on the last track first: “Music To Soothe the Savage Snake Plant,” which sounds like a trip into space. My snake plants grew happy and I felt peaceful. It was when I discovered Plantasia that I stopped Googling when and how to water these babies and started knowing them intuitively. They’d tell me if they were thirsty, if they needed some light. (Incidentally, it made it very difficult for plant-sitters. “Just ask them,” I’d say, “and if they seem cranky, put on ‘You Don’t Have to Walk a Begonia.’”)
Garson was one of the earliest musicians to own a Moog synthesizer--reportedly becoming one of just 28 musicians who had one in their posession by 1970. A Juilliard-trained pianist and composer, Garson was both a rather prolific session musician and songwriter in his own right, penning hits like Ruby and The Romantics’ “Our Day Will Come.” But it’s his Moog grooves that are so lovable and strange: among others, there’s Black Mass (dark and moody, Lucifer-inspired); Zodiac, and sweet Plantasia.
“Baby Tear’s Blues” is one of the funniest songs, unfolding like a noir soundtrack, finger-snappy and keyboard-bass-slappy and then, all of a sudden, ethereal. Swingin' Spathiphyllums is my favorite, so lounge-y and gentle enough to imagine your plants swaying their leaves like arms. The room is glowing golden; the orchid is winking at the little fern and they’re laughing. Listen closely enough and you will hear your plants listening, too.