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Petrified Voices 1
00:00 / 04:33
Petrified Voices 2
00:00 / 05:39

Petrified Voices / Museum of Natural History / University of Colorado at Boulder / 2014 /


De-composition means the degrading, or picking apart of material. When a life form dies, it decomposes, but in that process it becomes something else; new life springs from its alteration. Degradation of material leads to unfamiliarity with that material, one is forced to try and imagine it as something else.

This piece re-configures two petrified tree forms within the University of Colorado’s Natural History Museum. These trees have been dated from the Late Triassic period, about 225 million years ago. Ruehlen wanted to imagine these trees, as a living, breathing body, able to sense the world around them, to hear it. An accompanying soundscape is presented along with the petrified forms. Starting with sourced materials, like the digitally recorded sounds of a tropical forest, insects calling out in nighttime treetops, birds and reptilian life shuffling about, and wind passing through grass, two similar compositions were formed.

Before these trees were stone, found in the deserts of Arizona, the area was a warm and sub-tropical environment. These are the sounds surrounding the trees as one might imagine.  After a few moments of natural ambience the sound begins to collapse. Every second that passes, the sound is digitally diminished, one bit at a time. The sound becomes hardened, like the trees forming into stone. Eventually the sound has lost so much information that it becomes a dull rhythmic beating before it fades completely. To contrast the immense length of time of the trees’ transformation, their solidifying, into the four and half minute long blip in time crystallizes the sound of the forest transforming.

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