HAVE YOU HEARD THE MUSIC OF THE TREES?
No, not a band called “The Trees” - actual trees. Nor do we mean the "music" trees make in the wind. This is hardcore - literally. Listen to what happens when the rings of a tree are musically transcribed on a turntable.
German media artist Bartholomaus Traubeck creates music from trees. By sawing a thin cross section of a tree, he fashions the slice into a record disc of sorts. To play the record, Traubeck designed a modified record player from makeshift components. The one-of-a-kind record player has a PlayStation Eye Camera attached to its control arm. This picks up the signals and relays the data to a computer, which plays it back through Ableton Live software as programmed piano sounds. Traubeck chooses piano because he says people are used to its sound, and that it tends to be pleasing even when unmelodious.
While the tree disc is turning on the player, the tone arm moves towards the inside of the disk just like on a conventional record player. The difference is that it’s the camera registering the passing tree rings and translating them into sound. Sometimes it’s a series of tones, sometimes an ongoing sound. When the reader hits a knot, it makes a loud chord, while other rhythms keep repeating, and so a musical structure is revealed. The resulting music is more of a poetic interpretation of the tree’s ring data. The varying characteristics of the rings, such as thickness and rate of growth, make every tree record unique. Traubeck uses an algorithmic formula in determining what scale he assigns each different kind of tree, depending on the tree’s color, texture, etc. For example, a fir tree plays in C minor because it’s a little dark. Accordingly, different trees produce different sounding music. The final pianos track would be hard to define, falling somewhere between the ambient music of Brian and the noise pieces of John Cage.
The sample tracks we get to hear start with the relatively minimalistic fir tree, and segue into the darker, more complex ash tree. Traubeck calls calls his compositions, "Years." He adds that the original inspiration came to him from the album cover of Jethro Tull’s “Songs from the Wood.”
Or download the complete digital release of Years at: traubeck.bandcamp.com/album/years