Someone played a tree’s rings on a turntable and it sounds ridiculous

March 5, 2014

When sliced into cross sections, the resemblance is uncanny: Tree trunks resemble vinyl records. If you were paying attention in grade 4 science, you’d know why—when un arbre is still alive, a growth ring is added each year. Scientists can learn a lot about a tree, including its age and the climate it lived in, by examining its tree rings; its rings are an informal historical document. (The study of tree rings even has a name: Dendrochronology.)

Here’s a closer look at a tree’s rings.

See what we mean? It totally resembles a vinyl record, with each ring resembling an LP’s grooves. Which leads us to the next question: What would it sound like if we played a tree trunk on a turntable?

Musicians—or, more accurately, sound artist—Bartholomäus Traubeck found the answer. After engineering a record player that could actually withstand playing a cross-sectional piece of wood, he filtered the input through Ableton Live, which interpreted the data into a piano track. He captured the entire thing using a Playstation Eye Camera, using a stepper motor to power the turntable’s arm.

The result? A track called “Years,” which lands somewhere in between neo-classical genius and a horror film’s score. The song’s maker explained the similarities (and differences) between a tree and a record to Datagarden.

“On regular vinyl, there is this groove that represents however long the track is. There’s a physical representation of the length of the audio track that’s imprinted on the record,” he says. “The year rings are very similar, because it takes a very long time to actually grow this structure because it depends on which record you put on of those I made. It’s usually 30 to 60 or 70 years in that amount of space. It was really interesting for me to have this visual representation of time and then translate it back into a song which it wouldn’t originally be.”

Listen to it for yourself—it’s the sounds of natural history, maaan.


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