What’s it like to be a tree? For humans, the answer is nigh unknowable. Our sense of time and perspective is skewed toward the immediate. We are seldom rooted. Our internal rings are not concentric. Wendell Berry writes, “If we will have the wisdom to survive, to stand like slow-growing trees on a ruined place …” There is much we can learn from trees, although our anthropomorphic fantasies tend toward the horrific (“The Happening”) or the phantasmagorical (Ents). In One Hour As Trees In Finland, Gruenrekorder’s Lasse-Marc Riek offers a meditation that may lead listeners to a kinder, gentler place, a place of lesson and learning.
Not much is going on here, but everything is going on. The wind is blowing, the birds are singing, the trees are growing very, very slowly. The trees of Alajarvi are a home to various forms of wildlife, and the homes are offered without protest. Their branches bend in the wind, but do not break (at least in this recording). They take whatever is thrown at them and they survive. They ask little and offer much. They adapt to changing conditions. Each of these features comes across as a little sermon. A recent faith-based video from Melissa Helser (“Necessity of Seasons”) includes a relevant question: “Do you feel anxiety in the trees? Do they feel anxious that they’ll never have leaves again?” The trees care not for our human issues, but neither do they panic or worry. When listening to the wind of the first five tracks, listeners may feel, if not an affinity with the trees, at least the tug of calm, or to reflect the popular modern phrase, “letting go.”
The album’s second half concentrates on the creaking of trunks, which sound like un-oiled seesaws or swings. The strangeness of these tracks is that they seem devoid of wind (although the wind causes the creaks). This is a result of internal miking, but it’s still uncanny. The pine tree in my side yard rests just outside my bedroom and sounds like this on cold, windy winter nights. At first I believed the tree to be in danger, but experts informed me that such creaking is normal, like that of a settling house. If there is a lesson here, it may be that what sounds like trouble may simply be adjustment. While not as powerful as the first half of the album, the trunk sounds add inner nuance; the liner notes recommend playing the album on shuffle, but my preference is to play two copies at once. Spend an hour as a tree, and return, in the words of Berry, with “music risen out of the ground.” (Richard Allen)