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The voice of the trees

Andres Ramos


Recently I saw a documentary about the british actress Judy Dench. What I did not know was that besides of being the boss of James Bond as "M" in many JB movies, Judy is doing a lot of private research about the nature, life and social behaviour of trees. She is collaborating with lots of scientists helping her to understand how trees are are growing, the social relationships they are building up with other trees, plants and fungus and how they communicate. In that documentary I saw how a biologists was using a contact microphone he pressed against the trunk of a tree and miraculously getting sound from it. Since it was summer you could hear water flowing through the inner rind, or to put it simple, you could hear the tree drinking.

This fueled my imagination and I started to look for contact microphones. Very soon I found out that a simple guitar pickup is a contact mircophone and immediatly I ordered one at amazon. By use of some adapters I could easily hook it up to my digital voice recorder. Well equipped I drove outside to a huge forest 15 minutes by car away from my home.


There were some trees with their rind partially removed. I assumed this was due to the destructive work of bark beetles. I did not have much expectations on catching sounds from a tree since in winter the trees are resting but I just wanted to give it a try.


After some improper attempts to fix the pickup on the trunk I squeezed it into a fold in the bark and started my voice recorder. The first thing I observed was that I could hear some environmental sounds like chirping birds the microphone picked up but it was not that much. The next thing was I could hear sizzling sound which I supposed could have come from insects in the tree's trunk consuming his material.

Crackling Sound.mp3

As I analyzed the recorded data at home in Audacity I discovered a lot more. The first tree I recorded gave me a very low rumbling sound. I thought this could be caused by my first unsuitable attempts to press the pickup against the trunk with my own hand. Basically the movement of my hand muscles and the streaming of my blood could have caused this effect. Anyway in this sound I found not intelligible speech but a speech like pattern.

Very low speech pattern.mp3

After anaylzing the whole data I also discovered some fairly good spirit voices just be applying a little denoising.

Another voice was hiding in a small "burst" of impulses that I related to the aforementioned work of insects. Due to my experiences with spirit impulses I knew that some hidden voices can be uncovered by applying the "Paulstretch" algorithm to the signal and so I did.

"Will Rache!" -> "I want revenge!": Will Rache.mp3


To put this clear, I don't think the trees were speaking to me. Instead it's another proof that spirits may manifest their voices in every kind of sound material we offer them, no matter if this is noise, impulses, tones, vibrating air, electronic signals or whatever. Their potential of manifestation is hovering above every physical principle we have here on earth.

Moreover I could see that my setup was working and I am curious for the spring time next year to go out again when the trees will wake up and start making sounds again.



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