Silent tree activity, like photosynthesis and the absorption and evaporation of water, produces a small voltage in the leaves. In a bid to encourage people to think more carefully about their local tree canopy, sound designer and musician Skooby Laposky has found a way to convert that tree activity into music.
By connecting a solar-powered sensor to the leaves of three local trees in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Laposky was able to measure the micro voltage of all that invisible tree activity, assign a key and note range to the changes in that electric activity, and essentially turn the tree’s everyday biological processes into an ethereal piece of ambient music.
You can check out the tree music yourself by listening to the Hidden Life Radio—Laposky’s art project—which aims to increase awareness of trees in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the city’s disappearing canopy by creating a musical “voice” for the trees.
The project features the musical sounds of three Cambridge trees: a honey locust, a red oak, and an 80-year-old copper beech tree, all located outside the Cambridge Public Library. Each tree has a solar-powered biodata sonification kit installed on one of its branches that measures the tree’s hidden activities and translates it into music.
According to WBUR, between 2009 and 2014, Cambridge was losing about 16.4 acres of canopy annually, which is a huge loss considering that tree canopies are crucial to cities, cooling them down during the summer, reducing air pollutino, sucking up carbon, and providing mental health benefits.
Laposky hopes that people will tune into Hidden Life Radio and spend time listening to the trees whose music occurs in real-time and is affected by the weather. Some days they might be silent, especially when it hasn’t rained for several days and they’re dehydrated. The project will end in November, when the leaves will drop — a “natural cycle for the project to end,” Laposky says, “when there aren’t any leaves to connect to anymore.”
“in a cool solitude of trees
where leaves and birds a music spin,
mind that was weary is at ease,
new rhythms in the soul begin.”
-william kean seymour
source credits: Kristin Toussaint, The Optimist Daily, WBUR Radio
from the rhythm and music section of my baby book:
“loves to hear record player going or any music at 15 months.
attempts to dance to it and complains when music stops.”
not one part of this has changed except for my age.
“music and rhythm find their way into the secret places of the soul.”
Diana Turner sings her heart out
as the name would imply
this was not your ordinary theater performance
a story told in song
next to normal
is a tale that will touch your every emotion
when a family lets you into their living room and their lives
as they try to navigate their way
through the relentless storms that mental illness can bring
with a story and score that won a pulitzer and numerous Tony awards
I was not be able to turn my eyes or ears away from what was in front of me
with larger than life heartbreaking voices
pouring out their souls
on a tiny stage in this tiny 32-seat theater.
it was a very potent cocktail.
“make them laugh, make them cry, and back to laughter.
what do people go to the theatre for?
an emotional exercise.
I am a servant of the people.
I have never forgotten that.”
credits: slipstream theater initiative, barbie weisserman, music theater international