The Sound of Light in Trees documents an ecological holocaust—the destruction of northern New Mexico’s piñon pine forests by Ips confuses, the lowly bark beetle. Dunn, a composer and acoustic ecologist, spent years developing tiny probe mics that could be placed in spaces conventional recording equipment couldn’t reach. His recordings capture both the moist clicks and chirps of the beetles as they gnaw away at the wood’s fibrous cellulose and the creaks and groans of the tree bending under the weight of strong winds and the insects’ relentless onslaught. According to Dunn’s extensive notes, some of the sounds, which are produced by a textured area on the back of the beetle’s head, may help organize and regulate the distribution of colonies as they chew their way through the trees.
DID YOU KNOW: Destruction of piñon tree populations in some areas of the American Southwest due to bark beetle infestation are predicted to be total.