‘Tree listener’ comes to British Science Festival

Visitors to the British Science Festival are being offered a rare chance to be “tree-listeners”.

Artist Alex Metcalf uses specially designed microphones to capture the sublime sound of water bubbling through the trunks of trees.

He has brought his Tree Listening Project to the festival at the University of Hull, where pairs of headphones dangle from a large Indian Horse Chestnut.

Headphones dangle from a horse chestnut tree at the British Science Festival, University of Hull (John von Radowitz/PA)

Demonstrating his “tree trumpet”, a conical microphone placed against the tree bark, he said: “There are two sounds you can hear – a rumbling, which is the tree moving, and a popping, which is the sound of water mixing with air as it travels through the xylem (plant water transport tissue).

“You get variation from different types of tree, and where you put the microphone on the tree. Larger trees sound deeper and not quite as energetic as smaller younger trees.

“Around 150 to 200 litres of water pass through this tree each day.”

He added: “I grew up in Cornwall surrounded by trees, and I’ve always had a passion for trees.”

- Press Association


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