Turning tree rings into music

Turning tree rings into music May 2, 2014
Media artist Bartholomäus Traubeck turns tree rings into music.

Today I came across what might be the most amazing thing I’ve seen in a long time: the rings of a tree translated into music.

Media artist Bartholomaus Traubeck has found a way to take the rings that appear naturally in the trunk of a tree and turn them into musical sounds using a high speed camera, a mathematical formula, and a special turntable.

In a 2012 interview with PRI’s environmental news magazine Living On Earth, Traubeck explained:

“The tree slice is turning like a disk and the tone arm is constantly being moved to the inside of the disk like on a regular record player. The difference is that basically it’s just a camera and this camera is a modified camera, a very fast one, and the camera has just moved in and it waits until there is a tree ring passing the camera’s field of view and then it is translated into a sound. Sometimes it is a series of piano tones, sometimes it’s just one sound and the melody is defined, for instance, by the rate of growth. In essence, I play the tree’s year rings.”

Different trees produce different music, knots and cracks produce even more sounds, and the distance between rings also varies the musical patterns. But each ring on the slab tells the tree’s story.

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, it may or may not make a sound – but with Traubeck’s process we can go back and hear it growing, living, breathing, ring by ring, year by year.

I know this story is a couple of years old, but I am always in awe and filled with wonder when it comes to nature, always embracing the mystery of creation that is all around us. It’s a mystery we may not be able to hear with our ears but can feel in our spirit. Now, Traubeck has made audible that emotional and spiritual connection between man and nature.

For more about Bartholomäus Traubeck, visit his website.

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