- An ambient cult classic from the '70s that showed the Moog's early potential.
- Buy a plant, go home with a free record—that was the deal in 1976 at Mother Earth Plant Boutique on Los Angeles' Melrose Avenue. "It has been written music soothes the savage breast. It also helps gentle little plants grow," shop owners Lynn and Joel Rapp wrote in Mother Earth's Hassle-Free Indoor Plant Book. For them, it was a logical next step to start handing out records just as florists would give out sachets of flower food with their bouquets. Created by the composer and jingle writer Mort Garson, Mother Earth's Plantasia was inspired by the Rapps' philosophies, his own wife's green thumb and the unavoidable plant craze taking root across 1970s America.
Self-released and distributed through free-with-purchase schemes at both Mother Earth Plant Boutique and the American department store Sears, Mother Earth's Plantasia was destined to be a digger's dream thanks to its oddball concept, a bright cartoonish cover and early Moog arrangements. As the years passed and copies ended up in thrift store sale bins, a cult of listeners steadily grew.
Through torrents and YouTube rips in the early 2000s, Garson's gospel spread online. The warm complexity of his synth lines struck a chord with listeners worldwide, some believing the cheerful tunes really could make plants grow, others simply struck by its easygoing ambience. The synth tones on "Plantasia," for instance, blare like jubilant brass instruments while underlying melodies bubble and bloom with a springtime innocence. Mother Earth's Plantasia is probably one of the most widely known private-press records—now, after years of bootlegs, the record is finally getting its first official vinyl reissue, a double LP from the Brooklyn label Sacred Bones.
Garson was part of the canon of commercial composers who, through experimental passion projects, became unsung heroes of early ambient music. He followed a similar path as artists like Raymond Scott, Wendy Carlos and Dick Hyman, whose conceptual electronic projects brought a revolutionary edge to easy listening. A classically trained Juilliard School graduate, Garson made his name as a composer, arranger and session player in film and on the pop charts, most famously writing the music that soundtracked the Apollo 11 moon landing, in 1969. As one of the first people on the West Coast to own a Moog synthesizer, Garson took the financial stability his commercial success provided and invested it in fringe ideas.
Using his given name and a few synonyms, Garson put out other esoteric Moog albums in the lead up to Mother Earth's Plantasia. There was Cosmic Sounds, which provided a song for each astrological sign; Music For Sensuous Lovers, an "adults only" album for the bedroom; and The Unexplained, a sonic accompaniment for meditation. While albums like Ambient 1: Music For Airports popularized ambient music by framing it as art, Garson and his fellow commercial composers, using mostly purpose-driven concepts, made precursors to the genre that were expressly made to sell. Where Brian Eno's soundscapes pushed people to reflect on their environments, Garson’s music often served as a supplement to the listener's daily routine or played off the success of cultural trends.
With no scientific basis for how its songs could aid plant growth, Mother Earth's Plantasia is best thought of as an imaginative exercise. Garson addressed the plights and personalities of different plants through a made-up musical language. In "Music To Soothe The Savage Snake Plant," he renders an eerie lullaby with a melody that creeps forward like the hypnotic slink of a snake charmer's pungi. "Baby's Tears Blues" is hinged on a corny groove that's as silly as it is earnest, like the musical embodiment of tickling a crying infant.
Garson manages to keep you engaged by taking advantage of the Moog's wide-spanning ability—he plays with pitches, sprinkles in misfit melodies and manipulates synth tones to portray different plants. While maintaining a constantly chill mood, Mother Earth's Plantasia is intricate enough to establish itself as more than just background music. The record emits an enriching glow, so much so that it doesn't feel like a stretch to picture a plant unfurling its leaves to these dopey melodies.
Once Mother Earth Plant Boutique helped set the trend in motion, houseplants became so popular they eventually morphed into a tacky relic of the '70s. But recently the trend has come back. Today's hipsters are eagerly populating their shoebox apartments with tumbling pothos plants and perforated monsteras. Mother Earth's Plantasia has followed much the same journey as the greenery it's dedicated to. Its tackiness has transformed over time into a thing of beauty. A perfect reflection of the flora in your life, Mother Earth's Plantasia is garish, green and hopelessly sincere. It never fails to put a smile on your face or pull the sunshine into every room.
02. Symphony For A Spider Plant
03. Baby's Tears Blues
04. Ode To An African Violet
05. Concerto For Philodendron & Pothos
06. Rhapsody In Green
07. Swingin' Spathiphyllums
08. You Don't Have To Walk A Begonia
09. A Mellow Mood For Maidenhair
10. Music To Soothe The Savage Snake Plant