The Leaf Song

Publication with CD, 2010

Produced in collaboration with Vida Saumya during a residency with Fermynwoods Contemporary Art. Limited edition first run of 50.

Sloe
Prunus spirosa

slah
dark eyes

bird cherry
slippery

mouth held
loud

smooth
longest sound

Difficulty rate II    Sound range **

This publication is a fictional journal, collection of writing and recordings with labels about the qualities of the sound of leaves rolled up and blown like trumpets. 

The Leaf Song is a work of fiction resulting from a dialogue that took place when we first met. The project records and works with the sounds made by the leaves – sounds that are not normally thought about in terms of their quality or variety of tone, articulation or timbre. It is also not a sound that is regularly documented or provided as information in books about identifying trees. The sounds are recorded and included on a CD and expressed in entries for each tree that use Indian folk poetry and bird spotting books. 

This project arose from activities we did to familiarise ourselves with Fermyn Woods. The first was walking in the woods and sharing ways that we played in the woods, with leaves and grass as children. The second was observing the trees and birds and using the guidebooks to identify them. The guidebooks, one of the first inspirations, and our regular point of reference, were satisfying to read and make use of because of their careful logging of information and the particular design they all shared. Above all, they used a very particular style of writing. Basic factual description was combined with, in the case of the tree guides, biological terms for the shapes of leaves, seeds, or fruits, and for the birds, a phonetic expression of their individual voices or calls.  The methodical, fervent and detailed entry for each specimen (a sense of rhythmic repetition develops on reading a number of entries), the ‘otherness’ of much of the language, and formal approach to writing down effectively un-recordable bird song (nonsensical essentially) begins to form a poetic experience. 

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