[sic] Magazine

Herbarium – Divine Herba

“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

Pretty much anyone who’s ever spent even an instant of their life engaged in some kind of philosophical thought will have encountered this thought experiment, or at least engaged with the concepts it attempts to meditate one’s mind upon; reality, existence, perception, observation etc. However, considering all discourse upon those matters can be located elsewhere, I’m not going to expend any energy in repeating it here. Instead, I would like to take a slightly different tack, and approach the subject on a much more basic level.

I’ve been walking in the woods and have heard a tree fall. It wasn’t felled by anybody. For one reason or another it just could no longer endure the strain of staying upright, finally ceding to the constant oppression of gravity. Of course, the tree made a noise as it crashed to the ground; first a creak and a groan, then a snap and some rustling, before a loud smashing sound. This was the sound that particular tree made as it fell to the ground. But the thought occurred to me that every tree must fall, therefore every tree must make a sound. Whether the tree is felled by a lumberjack or by beavers, eaten by termites, consumed by rot, burnt in a forest fire, blown over by a hurricane, or as the tree I described above, simply an inevitable victim of the ever-present force of gravity, every tree will certainly, without fail, fall, and every fall will be accompanied by a sound.

Disregarding for the moment the philosophical implications of the introductory kōan, whether or not a tree is observed as it falls, every tree (that exists) will eventually fall, meaning every tree contains the potential to produce the sound of a tree falling. This potential sound will be unique to each tree, and although there are a finite amount of trees that have ever existed, depending upon whether time is infinite or not, or if the number of realities is limited or not, there is the possibility of there being an infinite (or at least incalculably massive) amount of unique potential sounds that can be created by trees falling. Obviously, the sound of a falling tree will likely never emulate the timbres available to a trumpet or a Korg MS-20, for example, thus although the amount of potential sounds a falling tree can produce is infinite, it is not as infinite as the number of sounds everything can create (infinity paradox).

Nevertheless, every forest or wooded area on Earth is a potential cacophony of sounds created from falling trees alone. Of course, man is bound by time and space, both in having a limited time available in life to hear any sounds, and also geographically, by being unable to be in more than one forest (or even part of a forest) at once, meaning it is only possible for one to hear even a minute fraction of the countless variations of the sounds of falling trees that could possibly be experienced in our short terms in this reality. Logically, there is even the possibility of a person living their entire life without hearing the sound of a falling tree, which means given enough time, such a person will definitely exist (or has existed). Even better, there is necessarily the possibility that a person walking through a forest will experience the sound of every tree within audible range falling simultaneously, and whilst this may seem statistically extremely unlikely, the fact that it is a possibility means given enough time it will definitely occur, and what an amazing scene to envisage that is.

Luckily, I don’t much care for the sound of falling trees, but I do care about the sound of music, and what are places like record shops, theatres, nightclubs, concert halls, festivals, even (or rather, especially) virtual locations like Bandcamp, SoundCloud and iTunes, if not musical forests. Even if we consider reality at absolute face value (or as much as sensibly possible), in this universe, within the span of our lives, we can only experience an incredibly tiny amount of the full spectrum of musical delights that are accessible to us. Whether this means our time spent listening to music is more or less precious is impossible to state in regards to every individual, but what is clear is that there is no shortage of music out there, with there likely being as many tracks uploaded onto various hosting sites online as there are trees on Earth. Well, okay, that could be an exaggeration, but the likelihood of listening to every single music track on the Internet and observing every single tree in the world are about equal: nil.

Anyway, finally coming around to what is nominally the focus of this piece of writing. At the dawn of 2016 Eco Futurism Corp. is but a sapling hidden deep beneath the canopy of the forest, dwarfed immeasurably by the towering redwoods of the major labels, just as Herbarium is but a microscopic leaf compared to the verdant foliage of radio-rotation pop stars. But that is no slight, the nature of the jungle being that all trees must begin as mere seeds, and even the sturdiest of branches or most stunning of flowers originate as unimposing buds. Whether these embryonic plants grow into anything more or are denied the necessary sunlight and nutrition by their greater neighbours is immaterial, their mere existence is assuring enough; that there is the possibility of being discovered in the underbrush is all that matters. That is what the ecosystem is all about; each component fulfils its own role. Sure, more people appreciate the aesthetic awe of the mighty sequoia, or the poetic beauty of the cherry blossom, but even the plainest of weeds and most unobtrusive of mosses plays its part, with particularly maligned species like Himalayan Balsam and Japanese knotweed having their reasons for such successful propagation. Every piece of flora occupies its own niche and holds its own importance, just like every artist within the musical jungle is as essential as the next, each providing their own unique input towards the overarching sonic ecosystem, and helping to enrich the total index of possibilities.

Just like the tree falling in the woods, each piece of music that is performed or uploaded onto the Internet may not be heard, but the fact that it could potentially be heard is justification enough for its creation and exposition.

So is Herbarium’s Divine Herba worthy of your precious time in listening to? Well, paradoxically, the only way to ascertain the answer to that question is to actually listen to the work and decide for yourself. So why not try that?