Bristol Ensemble’s TreeSong project was part of Bristol’s year as European Green Capital.
This one-off, unique project brought musical lift to a 150-year-old beech tree. Audio data from the tree was recorded over four days at the beginning of October 2015, and the Bristol-based composer William Goodchild then created a composition based on the ‘song’ of the tree, which was premiered at a concert at St George’s Bristol on Sunday 29 November.
A wooden collar around the trunk of the tree acted as a pick-up to translate vibrations through 32 piezos and over 200 strings to amplify the sound of the wind blowing through the tree as it blew across the Downs. The strength and character of the wind and swaying of the tree altered the pitch, timbre and resonance of the strings giving a constantly shifting canvas of sound.
Forty redundant violin, cello and viola bows were hung from the tree and were set in motion by the movement of the branches of the tree, bowing, knocking and exciting the strings.
The audio and data from these were amplified and also used to control, filter and alter the sounds. A small wooden shed acted as a control studio where sound artists Jony Easterby and Matthew Olden created a live mix of the sound.
Visitors to the project were enthralled and intrigued by the experience – sound, sight and feel combining to produce hypnotic music.
“Eerie, enchanting and amazing. A really amazing idea – love how nature and music create a unique composition. Randomness is something special to behold in an organised, structured world.”
“What an amazing imaginative piece of work. Loving the sound and atmosphere it creates. Congratulation to all involved. How lucky we are to be in Bristol with such creative people.”