Since our ancestors discovered rhythm, humans have been using wood to make music. Whether knocking out a beat on a branch, stretching animal hides over it, or plucking out a tune with the rough string on an ancient bow, creating music with natural woods has long been a human preoccupation.
Adding Fraxinus to the long line of Austrian composers, multimedia artist Bartholomäus Traubeck added a little more technology and ended turning trees into composers. In 2011, he completed an ambitious project in which data was fed from a record player running over tree rings to a piano, called Years.
Writing for Anobiumlit.com, reporter Benjamin van Loon asked Traubeck about the concept. Traubeck responded:
“The concept itself took some work to make it into a working physical prototype, but after some time of playing around with a wide range of input mechanisms, and having to experience a lot of setbacks, I had something that almost worked like I wanted it. Finding an aesthetic form (visually and aurally) for it was rather hard because I wanted to avoid any implications supporting tendencies like emotional kitsch or esotericism, which wood is prone to do when presented in a certain way – especially when the combination of wood and music (which is emotional) already supported this notion. So I tried to build something very reduced and formalistic around it. I painted it completely in black to draw the focus to the matter itself: the wood and its structure.”
When Audiogon staff stumbled across this piece on the internet, we were surprised by how each type of tree “sounded” as we imagined it would based on its appearance. You can listen to or buy all the tracks here.
What do you think, Audiogoners? Is this something you’d have playing in the background at your next Sunday brunch or is it too hipster for you? Let us know in the comments.