Diego Stocco – Music From A Tree from Diego Stocco on Vimeo.

I love happening across some unexpected and delightful corner of creativity. This weekend, as I shuffled through a couple dozen websites using the discover tool StumbleUpon, I came upon a video of a musician and composer named Diego Stocco. Now, I love music in general and spend a good portion of my life listening to it, discussing it, or trying to make it. But, when I see music created with mastery or innovation or deep conviction, it is thrilling to the nth degree. Finding the Playing For Change series earlier this school year is a good example.

Composer and musician Diego Stocco records the sound of using a bow on a tree branch.

The thing that makes Diego Stocco so interesting to me is the way he sees the world. As a musician and composer, he isn’t satisfied with the conservatory of instruments and sounds that others have created and used for generations. He looks for sound sources everywhere he goes and – upon finding an interesting possibility – creates a way to capture the inherent or manipulated audio possibilities of items and elements most of us would never see as musical. His Music From A Tree composition was created by digitally recording, affecting, and looping the sound of pounding, drumming, scratching, bending, bowing, flicking, shaking, and otherwise interacting with the structure of a tree in his garden.

From his Behance portfolio website:

In the garden of my house there’s a tree with lots of randomly grown twigs. It looks odd and nice at the same time. One day I asked myself if I could create a piece of music with it.

To tune the tree I picked a fundamental note and tuned the twigs by trimming them with a pencil sharpener. I used two Røde NT6 and a NTG-2 as microphones, combined with a customized stethoscope.

I recorded the tracks live on a Pro Tools LE system. I didn’t use any synthesizer or sampler to create or modify the sounds. All the sounds come from playing the tree, by bowing the twigs, shaking the leaves, playing rhythms on the cortex and so on.

Stocco’s website has several other videos which show him making music using various found or created instruments including sand, a stapler, and a drying rack attached to the resonant bodies of two acoustic guitars.

Stocco plays a tonal groove by hitting the strings of the Experibass with a drum stick.

Stocco plays a tonal groove by hitting the strings of the Experibass with a drum stick.

One of my favorites is his Experibass – a stringed instrument that effectively combines all the elements of a traditional string quartet by augmenting the body of a double bass with the important features of a violin, viola and cello. The resulting sounds are equal parts beautiful and terrifying. Stocco was recently drafted by Oscar and Grammy-winning film composer Hans Zimmer to add sonic elements to his Sherlock Holmes soundtrack.

The important thing I take away from my discovery of an artist like Diego Stocco is that – in addition to truly enjoying the sounds he produces – innovation and creativity can be realized from the most basic and common moments. Brilliance and beauty can be found all around us in unconventional and unpredictable shapes. As an educator, I want to see my students uncover artistry and capture the music in the narrative of the worlds in which they live. It’s one thing to see a tree and appreciate it’s outer form and grace. To imagine the music coursing through its leaves and branches, however, is the stuff of genius.