The trees are making music

In 2017 the Netherlands had a world premiere. The first music concert performed by a tree, a cedar tree to be precise. Dutch artist and musician Bert Barten had a simple question; “Can I make music with trees?”. Surprisingly the answer to that question was ‘Yes!’.

Inside of a tree is a lot of activity we can’t see with the naked eye, but is measurable with sensors. With an acoustic sensor, a kind of small microphone, you can register things like moisture content of the tree, the photosynthesis in the tree, but also the airflow around the tree. And with the right techniques you can make these activities audible.

Prior to the concert, Bert Barten placed all kinds of sensors on a cedar in Bergeijk. These sensors register electrical impulses caused by the physiological processes in the tree. These sensors are connected to a synthesizer where the impulses are converted into music. Bert Barten: "The impulses come from the tree, we determine the sound with the synthesizer. The tree is the composer, we are the arranger."

The concert creates a type of awareness that trees are a living thing, a fact we sometimes forget in this fast world. Although the trees prefer a more minimalistic type of music it’s truly a beautiful meeting of science, technology and art.