Years Makes Tree Stumps Into Sweet Music


Not sure what to do with those stubborn tree stumps once they’ve been removed? Before hauling them away, you may be interested to know that it is possible to make them into music. At least German-born multimedia artist, Bartholomäus Traubeck, has found a way to do so.

Of course, stump grinding turns unwanted tree stumps into nutrient-rich mulch, giving life to growing plants. But Traubeck has studied the way in which the tree’s year rings resonate to create patterns in music. He’s essentially brought the natural to the ethereal in just one slice.

A slice of wood, that is.

Turning an average slice of wood into a record that actually emits music may have never been done before, but something magical happens when it does. Traubeck’s most recent piece, simply titled Years, does just that. His record player translates the wood’s year rings into sounds. By using a ps eye camera as the record player’s needle, the complexion of the wood is converted into musical notes. A computer deciphers the natural grooves in the wood – the density, the rate of growth, the overall appearance – and maps it to a scale. With clever programming the year ring data is then expressed as piano music. The results of which are surprisingly eloquent.

What’s more impressive is that the year ring data gives each tree, each wooden record, a very unique and definite sound. The ingenious compositions of natural growth are an endless mystery only just now captured by Traubeck. No other musical artist in the world could accomplish such range.

Traubeck has, in essence, given nature a voice, an outlet of expression. By simply analyzing the composition of the wood, Years has turned up the volume on a conversation spoken by nature and translated by technology. Though he hadn’t intended to intersect the lines between nature and technology, in the field of multimedia, nature and art are bound to succumb to technology.

Now, it wouldn’t be necessary to start removing tree stumps from every yard from here to Berlin to make musical records. However, Traubeck is open to experimenting to with other trees to create new compositions. But it’s understandable that this experience is novel in the art world, even bridging over to the music and technological world. Why wouldn’t we want to learn more about the language of trees?

What’s most intriguing about the installation is that it gives us the ability to interconnect with nature in a language we understand. We often try to link ourselves to objects that share our world – Years has succeeding in personifying nature and given it sentiment. Traubeck has given a voice to a natural progression of life that happens whether we take notice or not. He’s brought emotion to an otherwise mundane development of plants that serve as the backdrop to our existence.

And yet, Traubeck has a sense of humor about the project. He can be seen “scratching” on a record during setup at an exhibition and talks openly about accepting wooden records from places around the world for sampling.

Years is currently showing in Werdenberg, Switzerland at Schlossmediale Werdenberg. Catch the installment from May 25, 2011 to June 3, 2012. Or watch it on Vimeo.

Syd Martin writes for Premiere Tree Services and blogs about nature, green living and technology.

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