Computational creativity and the future of AI

This record player reads tree rings instead of LPs


January 23, 2012

The camera scans the tree rings for their thickness, growth rate, texture, and overall col...

The camera scans the tree rings for their thickness, growth rate, texture, and overall color tone

Image Gallery (2 images)

Artists often say they can find music in everything, particularly nature. The question they often face is how to get the general public to hear the same tune that they do. One German artist, Bartholomäus Traubeck, seems to have hit on one straightforward method to accomplish this with some clever technology. Using a digital camera and some software, the artist has built a unique record player that spins cross-sections of trees instead of vinyl and translates the rings into piano music.

A record player designed by a German artist uses a digital camera and software to translat...

The record player, which Traubeck titled "Years," has a fairly simple setup. A turntable was modified so the tonearm would hold a digital camera and light in place of the usual needle. The turntable rotates slices of wood as if they were LPs, while the camera scans the rings for their thickness, growth rate, texture, and overall color tone. A computer using some custom software maps that data to a musical scale, which is then played using piano notes. Traubeck claims the music follows some clear rules due to the programming, but that each tree still gives a very different sound.

The result is a haunting tune that could be mistaken for the work of an human composer; albeit a somewhat off-beat one. Check out the video below to see the "Years" player in action and hear what sort of music a tree can produce:

YEARS from Bartholomäus Traubeck

About the Author
Jonathan Fincher Jonathan grew up in Norway, China, and Trinidad before graduating film school and becoming an online writer covering green technology, history and design, as well as contributing to video game news sites like Filefront and 1Up. He currently resides in Texas, where his passions include video games, comics, and boring people who don't want to talk about either of those things.   All articles by Jonathan Fincher

So, maybe the hills ARE alive with the sound of music. And when I talk to the trees, they DO listen.

Bruce H. Anderson
24th January, 2012 @ 08:18 am PST

That is really cool!!

Micah James Houchin
24th January, 2012 @ 09:13 am PST

how about trying to decipher the information from the rings with this technology and trying to 'interact' with the trees?

Zgabearta Iftode
24th January, 2012 @ 04:02 pm PST

That's sensational!

Chris Seafood Leo
24th January, 2012 @ 04:18 pm PST

Brilliance. . . . unfortunately to get at-least 1 "record" you have to chop down an entire tree....

Peter David Phoomahal Jr
25th January, 2012 @ 01:17 am PST

You could salvage a redwood tree stump and get a huge record.

Joseph Mertens
26th January, 2012 @ 11:17 am PST

I wonder what do the trees say!

Kirill Belousov
24th February, 2012 @ 04:26 pm PST

mine sounded different...

Garrett Thomson
1st May, 2014 @ 01:01 pm PDT
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