Innovation That Matters

The sound of the copper beech tree is one of those that can be heard on Hidden Life Radio | Photo source Cambridge Department of Public Works Urban Forestry

Project allows people to listen to the secret life of trees

Arts & Entertainment

An art project creates unique sounds from the biological processes of old-growth trees, aiming to increase awareness of a city’s disappearing canopy

Spotted: An art project from Cambridge, Massachusetts is allowing people to listen to the sound of trees. The project, Hidden Life Radio, was created by artist Skooby Laposky, with support from the Cambridge Department of Public Works Urban Forestry and the Cambridge Arts Council. Its aim is to increase awareness of the city’s disappearing canopy by creating a “musical voice” for the trees.  

Laposky attached solar-powered sensors to leaves to measure the micro-voltage across the leaf, which is generated by activity such as the movement of water through the leaf. He then assigned a key note and range to the electrical signals to create a unique and ever-changing song.  

The trees features include a copper beech, a honey locust and a red oak. The music is available to listen to in real-time, so people can literally hear the constant and ever-changing sound of trees. Sounds will be available 24 hours a day until November when the leaves fall from the trees. 

Listeners can also hear how environmental conditions like weather affect the sounds produced. The idea is to make people more aware of the many ways in which trees are important to communities. Laposky tells Fast Company: “Most people probably love trees and [still] don’t consider them all the time … In cities, the trees are there, but unless they’re providing shade or you’re picking apples from them, I feel like people don’t necessarily consider trees and their importance.” 

The Hidden Life project is just one of many that focus on the importance of plants to environmental and human health. Recent innovations in this space have included everything from growing hyper-local produce in supermarket parking lots to living walls that clean the air in houses. 

Written By: Lisa Magloff

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