Sept 23 we (Bennett & Stefan) made a first attempt at a guitar-tree sculpture.

On the way back we had a conversation on the topic of the affordances of instruments that incorporate objects from nature into their design. Rather than the highly modified nature, or technology, of say a violin or a guitar, a musical instrument that incorporates a naturally occurring object becomes a vehicle for interaction with nature in artistic production. The specific affordances offered can be deployed to radically alter the nature of the musical performance – the question becomes one of “what is the music that this particular structure” can engender, rather than importing a notion of musical structure which the object is only used to realise.

What is the way ahead from this first test object? Should we think of the guitar-tree as a harp or as a kora? i.e. should we work towards creating a tonal space with multiple strings or work from the possibilities of changing the pitch through bending the branches. Following from this and the above, how can we amplify the interaction with the tree, for instance if the movement in the branches from the wind can bend the strings and change the pitch. Different ways off stringing the tree can also suggest different understandings of the dynamic aspects of the tree itself, and of the instrument/architecture it has become. For instance, connecting strings to branches and then having them all meet at a single resonator point (guitar, for example) gives a sense of the tree as dynamically centred around it lower truck and roots. An alternative arrangement would be to have strings coming down from branches but connected to several different resonators laid out around the tree, given more of a sense of the outward dynamics of the tree – leaves blowing off, seeds being spread, shadows being cast.

Adding strings to the tree not only changes it into an instrument, it also, in a sense engenders an architectural space, insofar as an architectural space can be considered to be determined sonically as well as physically – Fernandez-Galliano on Fire and Memory as twin and interdetermined models of architecture – material and energy. We do not simply transform a tree into an instrument, we also bring about a kind of temporary architectural space, and also a performance site in ways that are different when we just play and already constructed instrument.

Bennett got the idea of a quartet around this sculpture involving all four elements, earth (the tree sculpture), wind (flute), water (the floating violin) and fire (the harp played by shocks from static electricity)

we have the
tree-guitar
river-violin
wind – flute
fire- harp
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