Humans are creatures of habit. So much so that many wake up at the same time every day, even without the aid of an alarm clock. This is due to the biological clock, which exists for nearly all living organisms.

Similar to humans waking with sunrise and sleeping after sunset, the biological clocks of plants determine when their flowers open or when their leaves grow. Some plants are so regular with their cycles that they were used to tell time. “According to Chinese lore, two trees grew at the Emperor’s Court. One tree produced a new leaf every day for fifteen days as the moon waxed, and then it shed one leaf every day for fifteen days, as the moon waned. In this way the months were measured. On the other side of the garden was a tree that produced leaves every month for six months, and then shed leaves every month for six months. And so, the passage of years were counted.”

Thus the notion of a flower clock was conceived. A flower clock is any arrangement of plants that have opening times associated with specific times of the day. Just as flowers can be set to time, music can also be set to time. The musical clock is a timepiece that plays a tune at set intervals throughout the day. Composers such as Beethoven even wrote pieces specifically to be played only on a musical clock.

Perhaps the most famous flower/music clock arrangement is “L’Horloge de Flore,” written by French composer Jean Françaix.” This seven movement oboe concerto pays tribute to seven different flowers that bloom at various times throughout the day – Poisonberry at 3am, Blue Catananche at 5am, Torch Thistle at 10am, Malabar Jasmine at 12pm, Deadly Nightshade at 5pm, Mourning Geranium at 7pm, and Night Flowering Catchfly at 9pm.

Today we find that some people have musical clocks that correspond with their biological clocks. In other words, certain music seems to resonate more with people at different times of day. The best example from my own life is when I was in high school. I drove to school at 6:45am every morning and most of the time I was barely awake. When the sun wasn’t even up yet, I needed something soothing to ease me into the day. Therefore I only listened to classical music on the drive to school. But in the afternoon, it was a whole different story. After school I was full of energy and wanted music that I could sing to. On the way home I always turned to the pop station to belt out the latest Britney or ‘N Sync hit. But before I shut off the car I made sure the radio was set back to the classical station so I was ready for the next morning.

What musical clock examples do you have from your life?

Posted on May 15, 2012
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