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The White (Noise) Album

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Dig the sound of wind blowing through the trees? Man, so do we. And so does David Dunn, a composer at the Acoustic Ecology Institute in Santa Fe. The pinyon pines around Dunn’s New Mexico home are dying off, though, as bark beetles infest the area. We reported extensively in our Global Warming issue (September 2007) how bark beetles are ravaging western pine forests as warmer winters allow the bugs to breed faster.

As the pines around Dunn’s place turned from green to grey, he started wondering, “What does a dying tree sound like?” So he tapped the trees (with the stem of a meat thermometer!) and recorded the noises—the music he’d say— of the beetles eating and having sex (beetle noshing and romance sounds like a squeaky bike rolling over rice krispies, by the way) and turned this work into a CD called The Sound Of Light In Trees: Bark Beetle and the Acoustic Ecology of Pinyon Pines.

It’s weird, gritty, atmospheric stuff, and contrary to Amazon reviewer, “Lord Chimp,” who says that “you are missing wondrous music if you pass this up,” this opus doesn’t really make for pleasant listening—it isn’t the stuff of cocktail parties.  But then again you are listening to a dying tree.

—Shannon Davis