A little more than a year ago, the show Radiolab set out to take the pulse of a city. It’s surprisingly predictable. People walk and talk at a different pace depending on where they live. All the melodies of different lives are set together against the same metronome.
It’s easy to appreciate the rhythm of cities. Simon Christen decided to transcend civilization’s buzzing and meet the steady thrum of the sky.
Everything is poetry when viewed on its own time scale, translated into senses we can understand. Time can sing.
No, really. Here’s another video to prove it:
Thanks to Bartholomäus Traubeck, trees now can sing their life story in a way everyone can understand. As Fast Company’s Co Design explains, that’s a camera on the turnarm — it reads the wood for variations and translates it into music. We cringe when the computer’s eye scans over a scar, because that past, unknowable pain is now translated.
Reading a book can provide clues into the life and times of the author. Similarly, tree rings aren’t only a biography of an individual, but a glimpse into the past. Dry summers, frigid winters — each tree holds this story close, more surprisingly beautiful than a whale’s song.
Last year, I worked for a couple months with OneTree Alaska. My boss there’s the person who sent me the video of Traubeck’s turnstile. In short, OneTree works with scientists, teachers, artists and school kids to dissect birch trees and intertwine science and culture. You see, science and art are inseparable, if you’re obsessed with observation. It’s impossible to not see the intrinsic beauty in a leaf you’ve drawn with charcoal you created, or the patterns of time in a tree-ring abacus, or the individuality of a tree you’ve watched grow.
In Alaska, there are plenty of things that we miss because we’re on the wrong time scale – like when a color is outside our visible spectrum. Glaciers ebb and swell, bees dance, bedrock blooms into soil, peregrine falcons snatch their prey.
Now, in the age of slow motion and time-lapse in every reality show and feature film, we can finally start to translate Earth’s music.
Even when we don’t make the effort to comprehend the language of time, Nature continues to create art.