Silva Datum Musica | Plein Air
With each names for trees, this latest collaboration between Tim Collins, Reiko Goto, Chris Malcolm (here as Silva Datum Musica) is a unique journey into the great outdoors via a custom-built plant-driven synthesizer – you heard that right. An instrument that “uses scientific sensors and software programming to generate real-time tree leaf data. Light, photosynthesis and transpiration modifies sound: the rhythm, melody, texture, tempo and harmony shift with atmospheric conditions and tree response – electronically.”
The trio act like performative sound painters on Plein Air. The outcome has a droopy quality on Alder, that seems like a retro flashback, like the accompaniment to a silent movie. This continues with gaseous exhaust and flourishes of organ and mysterious tones right into Oak and through the manipulated forest. Having taken a decade to orchestrate this, there were obviously a lot of technical aspects to overcome in the process – but this blend of scientific photosynthesis, etc. has a great impact on the pleasant awkwardness of the chords. This has the presence of something circus-like, or perhaps an organ grinder in the streets of Paris circa the 1950’s – it’s impossible to peg, and exciting to contemplate. Having been recorded in Scotland there lays the essence of the place in the tonal shadows.
The contraptions they’ve built (have a closer look here) seem more akin to those used by old school land camera photographers, and those who engage in the camera obscura than your typical musician – but they have successfully fused sound and vision with natural science to deliver an awesome ear-opener as well. The computer generated sounds are within their own world of improv, and the artists here definitely had to rely on chance for all of their inventiveness, in part. As light and temperature effect the sounds that come alive, this is one of those projects that would rightly deserve a fine museum exhibition, if you could bring the outdoors in (I’m thinking of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum with its open air courtyard that already has plant life). But the idea of seeing a sight such as this trio upon a hillside or in a public park would be a head-turner for sure.
Side two is fully dedicated to the solitary Pear as it runs just about twenty-five minutes: ” (the) regional heritage pear tree leaf that sounds more like Minimal Music. During the Cologne Tree Sound Study, we made the recording in a small office room in 2015, we had less dramatic weather changes. A warm summer, smooth light changes, generating a more gentle soundscape to deeply plunge into music (Georg Dietzler).” This track stands out from the rest, and it’s great to be reserved as such. The effect is a tad psychedelic, almost like music within Eastern traditions (like a snake charmer), and a bit removed. Though this also has plenty in common with German electronic music of the 1970’s, in all its futuristic, minimalistic glory. Plants are earthly beings, here given voice in a most unique way.