T R E E  O F  L I F E

“The affinities of all the beings of the same class have sometimes been represented by a great tree… As buds give rise to growth to fresh buds, and these, if vigorous, branch out and overtop on all sides many a feebler branch, so by generation I believe it has been with the great Tree of Life, which fills with its dead and broken branches the crust of the earth, and covers the surface with its ever branching and beautiful ramifications.”

— Charles Darwin, Origin of Species, 1872

Charles Darwin’s sketch of the divergence of species (as illustrated in his Origin of Species) presents his organizing vision of shared descent, the idea that all species ultimately evolved from a common ancestor in the distant past. From a single starting point, genetic changes in different populations send species down evolutionary pathways. Some of these branches survive, & split off to form new branches. Other branches wither, & species become extinct. Darwin’s metaphorical image is used to create this work. Sound progresses & develops from the time Darwin imagined life was “originally breathed into a few forms or into one.” Instrumental parts flow through the branching lines of divergence & extinction, increasing in complexity & diversity, representing 3.6 billion years of our evolutionary history — from simple, single-celled organisms to modern humans.

Michael Henry & Dwight Frizzell created a 33 minute version of this piece to introduce their theatrical work “Darwin” as performed by newEar. Frizzell’s Tree of Life video was mixed from sequences he shot and composited for the visual design of “Darwin.” This work in its various versions is on-going, with radio broadcast, new installation and concert versions in production.

Tree of Life Musicians

Thomas Aber
xun, gaida, clarinet & bass clarinet

David Boese

Anne Marie Brown

Robert Carl

Peter Chun

Patrick Conway

Larry Figg

Adrienne Garstang

Johnny Hamil

Nell French

Michael Henry

Rena Ishii

Kim Krutz

Adam Paxon
french horn

Ben Taylor & Steve Gardels
live recording engineers

Dwight Frizzell
clarinet, sound design, & mix

Tree of Life Performance and Publication History

June 2009

April 2013

Sept. 2013

May 2014

June 2014

Aug. 2015

10-minute version for violin, viola, cello and bass clarinet—performed by players from newEar for the National Audio Theater Festivals production

33-minute version for flute, clarinet, bassoon, horn, violin, viola, cello, contrabass, and multi-channel playback with soundscape mix and electro- acoustic processing—performed by newEar as the pre-show music for the newEar “Darwin” opera, City Stage, Kansas City, Mo., 2013

16-minute concert-version for shakuhachi, xun, gaida, bass clarinet, clarinet, bassoon, violin, viola, cello, electro-acoustics, multi-channel sound and video, Artsounds, Epperson Auditorium, Kansas City, Mo., 2013

Self-publication of the concert recording of Tree of Life on Myth-Science Ensemble, Generative Words, earThis CD005 (compact disc), 2013

Three day installation version for multi-channel sound and video projection for the National Audio Theater’s HEAR NOW Festival in Kansas City, 2014

16-minute video installation version. In Pursuit group exhibition at H&R Block Artspace, Kansas City, Mo. 2015