The dark trunks are as grey as bleached stone. Their dull, shaded leaves perform a slow, almost balletic routine in the pitch-black of the night, absent of white stars. It’s done in private, with only a couple of nocturnal eyes glinting from beyond. Natural rhythms sway in time with their slender arms, a hundred trees participating in an ancient ritual. Their rhythm is true, tried and tested. Their trunks are thick bodies that populate the planet. Instruments are bodies, too. With clarinets, violins and piano performed by the Kwartludium ensemble, the sublime beings house the music before it’s released into the wild.
Trees have been around much longer than we have and are considered sacred the world over, minus the brutal deforestation that we see today, a sad reminder that all is not well. Oaks were once worshiped by European druids, and Redwoods were an integral part of American Indian ritual. They are stony, monolithic, breathing life into the world. And polish musician Michal Jacaszek breathes life into his music. It takes on a new, ashen form. The percussive shaking sounds like a quivering branch; leaves rustle in the dead of night. In the natural, wooded house of leaves, birds nest and nestle, taking refuge. They harbor life and oxygen. A leafy tree in its prime will produce as much oxygen in a season as ten people inhale in a year.
Creaking timbres and dissonant piano notes drip with a grey, murky mystery. Recurring chords cloud the music, and low, ominous bursts of piano rumble like tropical thunder. The strings seep tears of discontent. Jacaszek has chosen to explore the natural beauty of trees – ‘their form, atmosphere and mystery’. Their beauty has been much admired and, as a result, is often taken for granted. Jacaszek concentrates on the darker, twisted roots underneath the surface – something that we don’t normally see – and the well hidden secrets they keep. The music is detailed; close up shavings that scrape against the trunk of the tree. The trees are alive, mixing in with the sound of steady rainfall and the chirp of the birds. Percussion patters down, filling up empty cans with a light, tinny sound. A sung chorus comes out of nowhere, but it’s a leafy language.
Catalogue des Arbres is a tonal forest, a dense jungle rooted with slithering shrubbery and vines that snake their way through the undergrowth. The notes seem to know their way around this place. The clarinet isn’t as bright as it once was, the tone becoming noxious, falling under a dreamy enchantment after a chance meeting with Maleficent. Wooden carvings litter the side of the trunk, signs of cherished teenage love. I <3 u 4eva.
Jacaszek recorded the leaves at various locations, distances and in different weather conditions. This adds a chilling authenticity to the mystery currently developing in the brooding glow of the dark room, where Jacaszek’s photographs find their form. Strange black shapes appear beside the trees, apparitions that hone in on their victim. The trees intend to keep their secrets; you need to be on your guard in Jacaszek’s neck of the woods.