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    From The Things Trees Know by William Byrant Logan.

    Charlie Parker is supposed to have given the following advice to a young saxophone player. First, you had to learn your instrument. Next, you had to learn to play the tunes. Finally, you were free to improvise, to play jazz. John Coltrane’s "My Favorite Things" is a terrific example of what he meant. It begins with a perfectly clean statement of the tune, beautiful in itself for the richness of its tone, notes that are almost solid, so you could build a house out of them. Within three minutes, the tune has modulated into completely unexpected shapes, sizes, rising and falling glissades, stops and starts, pianissimos to fortes, but it never loses the thread of that original tune. Every tree is a jazz player, in just this way, although where a long Coltrane piece might last a quarter of an hour, a tree’s performance may go on for half a millennium or more.

    The tropical botanists Francis Hallé and Roelof Oldeman were the first to articulate the idea that every plant first grows to fill a form — that is, to play its tune. It does not matter whether it is a weed by the wall or a giant sequoia, whether it is a tropical Terminalia or a subarctic birch. They, along with P. B. Tomlinson in their 1978 book Tropical Trees and Forests, wrote that every species of the higher plants can grow in only one of twenty-three different patterns. (They have since added one more.) In fact, they noticed, a few modulate from one pattern to another, and a few more seem to grow in a hybrid pattern, but all conform to the same morphology that their ancestors had.

    The tree’s "chops" are inborn, a part of its inheritance. It knows how to grow in the way its parents did. The seed contains the knowledge. To learn its "charts," the plant grows to elaborate this knowledge into its basic shape. This first statement of its tune may take a few weeks for the weed or twenty years for the oak or may last a lifetime for a fir, but in physiological time, it is just the same. All seek to fill out the pattern of stem, lateral, flower, and fruit that was handed down to it by its forebears.

    What are its notes, its scales, its sharps, its flats, and its time signatures? According to the three botanists, every plant plays upon six choices...
    Full article: Orion - Winter 2018 The Things Trees Know

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    I was going to make a smart Alec comment. But in fact it’s pretty profound.


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