Tuesday, February 5, 2013

UK National Tree Week

Trees have a unique physiology where each year’s growth is represented as a new layer between the wood and the bark: as a ring. The inner portion (“spring wood”) of a growth ring forms early in the season, when growth is comparatively fast, and the wood formed is less dense. The outer portion (“summer wood”) forms slower, during the second half of the growing season, and is comparatively denser. In the early 1900’s an astronomer named A. E. Douglass developed a method of dating based on tree ring growth patterns known as dendrochronology. Lately, this science is primarily used in paleoecology, the study of past ecologies, to learn about our past climates.

Tree rings have also inspired an intriguing art project called “Years” by German artist Bartholomaus Traubeck. He created a record player that interprets slices of wood (known as “cookies”) much the same way a conventional record player interprets a vinyl record. This is accomplished using a set of cameras that read the width of rings that pass under its view, and translates it into piano music. Traubeck described fir trees as a dark c-minor sound, ash as “compressed and complex”, and walnut as a stressed artistic sound.

While this does not relate to dendrochronology scientifically, it offers anyone who appreciates art, music, and a handsome tree, another interpretation of tree rings.

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