Dead Tree Spectrum

20 micro-speakers are embedded in a dead tree, determining an analysis in time, space and sound frequency of the tree itself. A dead tree can rot or can become an artifact. How would it sound if it were to become a musical instrument? What if we would cut the tree at different heights and make a resonant pipe out of it? The distance of each speaker from the root determines the frequency it will emit. Small instrument, higher pitch; big instrument, lower pitch. Altogether, the twenty speakers create a virtual, ever-changing — and at the same static  — spectrum derived from an incidental, yet very concrete, physical feature.

“Dead Tree Spectrum” is a sound exploration of a dead tree trunk, found along the trails of I-Park, in East Haddam (Connecticut, USA). This site-specific sound-art intervention includes ten 32mm and ten 17mm-diameter minispeakers, embedded in wood and emitting different sets of frequencies.


The wood has been carved in order to host the twenty sound devices, custom-made cables and ten mp3 players.

Each speaker is embedded at a certain distance from the roots. The diameter of the tree is around 120 cm. Diameter and distance from the roots are used to calculate the fundamental frequency of a virtual pipe, as if the tree would be cut in that particular position and become a resonating musical instrument (for example, an organ pipe):

Distance from roots (cm)  Speaker Fundamental Frequency (Hz)
130  1a 58.6481249
136  1b 56.34144423
190  2a 41.61179751
198  2b 40.0602185
252  3a 32.00497483
260  3b 31.07914606
313  4a 26.08086129
324  4b 25.23843642
376  5a 21.89518841
385  5b 21.40445073
439  6a 18.86722043
447  6b 18.54160914
500  7a 16.63917669
508  7b 16.38541079
560  8a 14.90758856
568  8b 14.70356786
621  9a 13.48125329
630  9b 13.29359433
685  10a 12.25140831
695  10b 12.07922963


The speakers are arranged in ten pairs (one 37mm and one 17mm for each pair). The composition of each track for each speaker pair involves the fundamental frequencies at different higher octaves, both because the speakers are too small to emit low frequencies, and because the lowest frequencies are too low to be heard anyway.

Made at the I-Park residency for the Site-Responsive Art Biennale, I-Park Foundation, East Haddam CT (USA) – May/June 2017

Thanks to: Bridget Quinn, Hannah Streefkerk, Hugh Livingston, Whalen Polikoff

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