Modified Turntable Reads Tree-Rings as Music (Video)

Bartholomäus Traubeck/Screen capture

Aside from the gentle rustling of leaves in the breeze, or the creaking of a bough in a winter gale, a tree's character may best be described as 'the strong and silent type' -- but, as so often is the case with such personalities, they just might have the most hauntingly beautiful stories to tell.

For nearly a century, dendrochronologists have practiced reading tree-rings for clues about the lives of trees. And though the field of study has helped immensely to shed light on historic growth cycles for scientists, it's all been rather dry and clinical. But now, thanks to a special turntable designed to read tree-rings like tracks on an LP, a tree's biography can now actually be heard as its discography.

German artist Bartholomäus Traubeck recently debuted a record-player he developed which is capable of digitally reading tree-slices and translating them into surprisingly moving piano music. Tree-rings, of course, considered to be annual records of a tree's growth rate -- which in turn offer clues to the hardships and fruitful periods experienced over the life of the tree.

A description of Traubeck's project, fittingly entitled 'Years', from Creative Applications:

A tree’s year rings are analysed for their strength, thickness and rate of growth. This data serves as basis for a generative process that outputs piano music based on the year ring data. Those are analyzed for their thickness and growth rate and are then mapped to a scale which is again defined by the overall appearance of the wood (ranging from dark to light and from strong texture to light texture). The foundation for the music is certainly found in the defined ruleset of programming and hardware setup, but the data acquired from every tree interprets this ruleset very differently.

Like any great composition, the sounds produced from reading tree-rings are both aesthetically beautiful while at the same time a strangely ethereal glimpse into the otherwise silent life of our planet's most essential organisms. And likewise, when presented in such a visceral way, it becomes difficult to imagine Earth's pristine forests as merely places where life can thrive, and not as quiet musicians recording, in their own way, what it means to be alive.

Tags: Music

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