Magda Drozd Searches For Meaning in Cactus Samples


As countless trend pieces have pointed out over the past couple years, plants are really having a moment right now — their strongest zeitgeist showing since the ’70s, from stylized cacti shops to the long overdue reissue of a cult electronic record written for the ferns and philodendrons around us. Magda Drozd flips that script even further on this Friday’s Songs For Plants album, a haunting blend of cacti samples and bewildering sound beds spliced with synths, guitars, violins, and Drozd’s own vocals.

In the following exclusive, the idiosyncratic composer/multi-instrumentalist shares the latest single from her Präsens Editionen LP, along with detailed notes on her creative process and the bigger ideas behind all of it…..

The plant that is sampled on my album is the Opuntia ficus indica, also know as the prickly pear cactus. If growing outside in a warm climate, it can become a large, trunk-forming, segmented cactus that may grow up to seven meters tall. The edible plant has smooth, fixed spines and small, hairlike prickles.

My Opuntia — the voice that I recorded — is the opposite. It is small, fragile, and shaky, growing long and thin rather than thick and large. It is always searching for light, bending its body depending on where the sun comes from.

How can such a delicate matter — holding a history of the past — create a new memory? A memory that starts now. The place where it is growing is artificial for its body. It has barely enough sunlight, as much as a house can have inside thick walls. This reality becomes hearable in the composition. As well as all the life inside, around, and outside it.

A new memory created by an imagination of the future. Created by intuition and playfullness. By spontanity and movement.

Four years ago I sown around 1000 Opuntia seeds that made 200 plants sprout. Around 50 remained by now. The other ones dried slowly until nothing was left. They became invisible and collapse before you could realise it.

There is water in the earth. Soaked up by the roots within minutes. A water tank spreading out. Taking space.

The moment of this recording is a violent one. A needle pierces the body. A noise — a murky disturbance — appears on the monitor. Something becomes hearable. Cracking and moaning. Singing and whispering. A story and speculation. A broken identity and questions.

It makes me think. How to unthink the cacti and their original sounds and how to compose with them. Transform it into something that has nothing to do with the cactus any more. To make another formless thing, so it becomes another thing again. It becomes fiction but it is not irreality. It is a new thing.

The cactus is a starting point to reinvent, to rethink. It is not it anymore. It is about moving away from it again until it becomes a dialogue, a conversation about what else it could be. And maybe you hear an aloe vera or the evergreen shrub Kalanchoe beharensis. Maybe you hear the new home that you were looking for, or maybe you just smell the gasoline of the street. They leave you a message and your finger slides over a surface that reminds you of a stone….

Magda Drozd
Songs For Plants
(Präsens Editionen, December 6th)

1. Finger Touching A Stone
2. Seven Demons
3. Painkiller 04:45
4. Left Foot
5. Girl With A Plastic Bag On Her Head
6. Half Sick
7. New Home
8. Three Tits
9. Hanging Arms
10. Behind The Curtain
11. Leave Me A Message