When Tree Rings Become Music

What story does this gnarled tree in Fern Canyon at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park have hidden within?
What story does this gnarled tree in Fern Canyon at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park have hidden within?

All the elements combine to shape the trees we walk among every day. We see the result in glorious towering and sometimes twisting trees that curve and arc above us. Deep within the trunk and branches of every tree, wooded tree rings bear history to the tree’s unique story, small rings in lean years and wide rings in years of plenty.

Redwoods and Climate Change Initiative scientists are analyzing the tree rings of redwoods to understand the fingerprint of past climate. They seek to understand trees better using a microscope and focused scientific questions. Bartholomäus Traubeck seeks to understand trees in a different way, by translating their tree rings into music.

In his innovative  recording – Years – Traubeck makes audible the previously silent pattern of wood growth in Austrian trees including spruce, ash, walnut, beech, alder, maple, and oak. Each species’ song is as unique as the tree’s life story, I’m quite fond of the sound of spruce.

What stories and songs do the trees outside your window have hidden within?





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About Emily Burns


Emily Burns, the League’s former Director of Science, led the research program that includes the Redwoods and Climate Change Initiative. She holds a PhD in Integrative Biology on the impacts of fog on coast redwood forest flora from the University of California, Berkeley.

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