Lasse-Marc Riek: One Hour As Trees In Finland

German sound artist Lasse-Marc Riek is justly celebrated for the curatorial work he performs on Gruenrekorder, the label he founded in 2003, on behalf of field recordists, phonographers, and sound artists. But he also occasionally steps out with a release of his own on other labels, cases in point Harbour for Herbal International and One Hour As Trees In Finland on and/OAR. The latter, the second release in the label's One Hour As... series (based on Ben Green's 2002-04 radio program of the same name on Resonance FM), is an especially interesting one, even if it took nine years for the 2007 recording to reach the public's ears. Issued in a limited edition run for “100 tree lovers,” Riek's recording presents sound recordings of trees being blown by wind in Alajarvi, Finland but with a twist: five of the ten tracks feature exterior sounds of winds, leaves, and storms; the other five are recordings made from inside the trees' trunks.

The opening five present us with a world alive with energy and activity. Winds blow with mighty force, sometimes so powerfully they drown out all other sounds, and one visualizes the trees' branches bending in the breeze and leaves blown from their branches. A picture forms of a living ecosystem of birds, animals, water, and trees, all of them dealing with the pressure enforced upon them by weather phenomena. In notes accompanying the release, Stefan Militzer repeatedly emphasizes the role rhythm plays in the interactions between different types of organisms, one example being the transformation of energy from one type (air pressure) to another (the bending of a tree trunk's wood structures); he also highlights the circulatory system in play within the natural setting, how energy transfers from one element to another and how the system's functioning never ceases. Such interactions, however, must be imagined by the listener as the one sound dominating all others in the recording's first half is wind.

Whereas the “Crown” pieces are generally dense and opaque, the “Trunk” settings are minimal in sound detail, with creaks and assorted other micro-noises composing the sound field. Deprived of the recording details, one might identify the opening “Trunk” piece as a field recording of a boat rubbing against a dock on a quiet early morning, though it's presumably the amplified groan and high-pitched chirp of a tree trunk rhythmically reacting to external forces. Wind is still audible in the second half but distantly so, its presence a barely audible reminder of the role it plays in the interactive process. More than anything else, Riek's recording reminds us that trees are living organisms that respond and adapt to the forces of the environment in their own unique way.

May 2016