aural observations 6: the voice of trees

The latest in my ‘aural observations’ series of articles features the sound artist Bartholomaus Traubeck, and his work entitled ‘Years’ 2011. A sound installation, the piece consists of an adapted record player that plays cross-section slices of a tree trunk.
It is widely accepted that the ‘rings’ of a tree, (present within a cross-section a tree trunk) can accurately indicate the age of a tree. By examining the characteristics of a ring such as thickness and tone however, we are also able to gather individual information about the general health of a tree, and levels of rain fall it has received in its surrounding area. With such information being entirely personal to a each tree then, the design of a trees rings could act as its own individual finger print.


By replacing the needle of a record player with a sensor, Traubeck is able to gather information about a trees colour and texture. By mapping this information onto a musical scale defined by the appearance of dark to light (colour), and hard to soft (texture) this information is output as piano notes – creating an accurate musical record of a trees rings. An audible representation of a visual occurrence.

By advancements in technology we are becoming increasingly able to re-imagine, and re-interpret visual art forms. Art has traditionally always been categorized as purely visual object or activity – the experience of casting the eye over a coloured picture plane. It is however, anything but a purely visual experience, and work like Years proves it can equally be as audible an experience as it is a visual one.



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