Have you ever noticed how the grooves on a cross-section of a tree sort of resemble the grooves on a record? Bartholomaus Traubeck did.
For the project entitled 'Years', the artist and engineer made a record player that could play trees instead of vinyl, creating a different melody based on the tree's age. The mix of nature and technology, sound and shape, age and rhythm makes us want to rediscover our vinyl collection this weekend.
We asked Traubeck a couple of questions about how he possibly thought and executed this ambitious project.
What inspired you to turn make a record player that plays trees?
Bartholomaus Traubeck: I can't really remember. I started thinking about this project almost 3 years ago and it stayed in the back of my head ever since. But I guess the visual analogy of year rings and a groove on a record is very obvious, so it had to cross my mind at some point.
HuffPost Arts: In the visual realm it is easier to separate form from content, shape from materials. In the audio realm the shape of a song is its content. Your work shows the connection between the aural and visual realms. Do you think the senses of sight and sound are separate? Does what you show about sound translate back onto shape?
Bartholomaus Traubeck: This is an interesting question. I am not sure but i think they are separate. It is our mind that is able to accomplish the translation from, say visual forms to an imagination of fitting sound for a shape. This is what we call the audiovisual experience. If something like this creates a certain atmosphere you can not experience it by taking one sensory input away.
I think it could generally translate back onto shape, even in a very practical manner. Just think of how actual vinyl records are made. There is an input that sends a soundwave directly to a cutting machine which is using the sound as instruction for movement. like this sound is translated to shape. Regarding my work, this would probably not work that easily since there is a lot of steps in between and the camera is not that precise. My machine is rather a contraption for generatively producing music that is interpreted by the data in the year rings than an actual sonic representation of the data.
HuffPost Arts: By playing a tree as an instrument, do you see this as revealing something about the tree that is already there or manipulating the tree for new possibilities? Is there a break between the natural and the artificial or can they enhance each other?
Bartholomaus Traubeck: For me it is definitely the manipulation of the material in order to find a way to generate something new. In this special case I used data from the tree to find interesting rhythms, melodies, compositions etc.
If you just listen to the sound nothing is really revealed, especially not in comparison to just looking at the tree rings themselves. But I think it rather serves as impulse for the recipient's imagination. You can speculate about things like the passing of time or natural phenomena, but it is never based on scientific facts that could be found in the music. I try not to see the natural and artificial as two opposing principles. The artificial is necessarily a result of the natural, and what we like to think of as artificial right now is just one more step forward of the evolution of the natural.