I sent this out to a number of people by e-mail yesterday; thought I’d share it here as well…
Follow this link and play the video, but listen first, without looking at the video or trying to interpret what you hear:
Now play it again, and watch the video. More information is available at this link: On the Record: “Years” by Bartholomaus Traubeck
As I mentioned, I sent this out to a number of people, and received a response from one of them saying, “I don’t get it.” Here’s what I wrote in reply:
“Well, basically what he’s done is make a ‘record’ out of a slice of tree. A record player makes music because of variations in the groove of the record that are picked up by the needle. The wood doesn’t have a groove like a record of course, so he’s replaced the needle with a light beam.
As you know, as a tree grows it makes annual rings in the wood. Your teeth do something similar; a part of my job at the Rabies Unit was to section teeth from the animals we collected from trappers and look at the sections under a microscope to see how old the animals were.
Anyway, while a tree adds annual rings, the rings are not uniform. In a good year the tree will grow more and the rings will be wider, farther apart. In a bad year – cold, drought or what have you – the rings will be closer together as the tree won’t have grown as much. I’ve seen cedar trees in swamps that were 160 years old and only 3″ in diameter. If a tree is growing in an area where there’s a prevailing wind or similar stress, the rings will be wider on one side of the trunk than the other as the tree needs that extra support on the one side. As some trees live for thousands of years, there’s a science called ‘dendrochronology’ that uses these growth patterns to relate to weather patterns in history.
Taking this all into account (and with some personal bias,of course), as I understand it he’s matched these growth variations to musical tones. What you’re listening to then is one person’s understanding of the life of a tree. You can hear the fat and lean years, the successes and triumphs and failures of years compressed into minutes. As Marcia said, “I can hear the rain.”