Violin decomposes as it is ‘eaten’ by a mushroom in a one-year timelapse

28 January 2022, 12:43

Sven Helbig - Metamorphosis (Official Video)

By Sophia Alexandra Hall

A one-year timelapse of a decomposing violin accompanies German composer, Sven Helbig’s, latest work.

The Reishi mushroom is a reddish brown varnished kidney-shaped cap fungus. Nicknamed the ‘mushroom of immortality’ in English, the mushroom has long been thought to be a talisman of luck, healing, and wellness in Chinese culture.

This fungus is usually found growing on hardwood trees – in particular, oaks – in warm climates, such as Asia, the South Pacific, Southern Europe and the Southeastern United States.

But one type of wood you probably wouldn’t expect to find the fungus on, is the wood of a violin.

In the music video for composer Sven Helbig’s latest track, Metamorphosis (meaning a great change in appearance or character), a violin is seen slowly being ‘eaten’ by a Reishi mushroom over the course of a year.

Recorded via timelapse, the result is the eerie decomposition of an instrument like we’ve never seen before (watch above).

Read more: Funky fungi? Meet the musicians making melodies out of mushrooms

The violin is slowly devoured by the fungus...
The violin is slowly devoured by the fungus... Picture: Sven Helbig – YouTube

In the music video teaser trailer, Helbig asks the audience, “Can you drink a violin?”.

For those stumped by his questioning, Reishi mushroom is often made into a tea. According to the tea company Twinings’ website, Reishi has long been used to manage allergies, autoimmune diseases, sleep patterns, and asthma, due to its immune system-boosting qualities.

The mushroom growing on the Metamorphosis violin is eventually harvested after a year of growth and made into tea. The last imagery we see in the music video is that of a cup of tea being poured.

Seeing the violin used as a type of soil in this scenario perhaps creates more questions than it answers for the viewer. Does the instrument have more value as a part of today’s classical music world, or as food for this ‘mushroom of immortality’?

Read more: ‘World’s first’ vegan violin replaces animal hide glue with wild berries

Helbig is a double ECHO Classical Music Award winner and the co-founder of the Dresdner Sinfoniker, one of the leading symphony orchestras specialising in contemporary music. Other musicians involved in the video include the Mondëna Quartet, hornists Anne Grethen, Jörg Brückner and Robinson Wappler, and tuba player Tom Götze.

Helbig performs with the London Contemporary Orchestra on 27 April at the Purcell Room, Southbank Centre in London.