Pantha Du Prince
Conference of Trees
In his latest musical experiment “Conference of Trees” Hendrik Weber aka Pantha Du Prince translates the communication of trees into an impressive sound journey. What does it sound like when trees communicate? This is the question the German composer, electronic music producer and conceptual artist Pantha Du Prince attempts to answer in his latest album, “Conference of Trees”. The depths of his exploration into this mysterious language clearly visible by the various routes he takes into uncovering it; which spans the scientific studies of forest ecology professor Suzanne Simard, to Erwin Thoma’s ‘The Secret Language of Trees’, to the mystical meanderings of the 12th century Sufi, Farīd-al-dīn Attar. But ultimately the musicians biggest inquiry comes from within, in a phenomenological search of what it is like to live life as a tree, “I wanted to become a tree myself and enable a group of musicians to become trees as well,” he explains. Translating this experience into music the defining feat of the entire album, “This is an act of contemplation.”
The instruments Pantha du Prince uses on “Conference of Trees” are the tools for his exploration; partly handmade by the artist himself, who wanted to explore the sound characteristics of different woods through intensive studies of the material. He is supported by a percussion ensemble consisting of Håkon Stene and Bendik Hovik Kjeldsberg, who already participated in his last ensemble project The Bell Laboratory, and Manuel Chittka, drummer of the German artist Jungstötter. Jazz musician Friedrich Paravicini also participated in the arrangements. “In the piece, we attempt to give trees a human sense of hearing as well as a musical language,” says Pantha Du Prince, “I wanted to work with wood more to build the sound boxes you hear in the concert.” For an artist who was mainly producing electronic music up to this point, working with wood instruments also meant a shift in day-to-day habits, “Spending so much time in front of the computer and working with electronic machines started feeling a bit bleak to me,” explains Pantha Du Prince, “I wanted to find a way to spend more time outdoors and to legitimize it with art.”
Pantha du Prince’s experiment with “Conference of Trees” also carries in all its melodic tensions an important social critique. The implications of how we currently interact with nature, and our destructive relationship to our ecosystems are also addressed. He seems to be saying that tree mustn’t only be respected and protected, but it should also be appreciated, “I think it’s fundamental to see the tree as a symbol of life, or to see the ‘forest as the world,’ since the tree, as a biological organism, creates the richness of life,” explains Pantha du Prince who has stated on numerous occasions the importance of nature for his own personal and creative well-being. In holding this conference, Pantha Du Prince gives voice to trees, a voice we seldom recognize in our current systems of rights, and with that voice the trees become not the silent giants of our world, but active and wise communicators, “They seem to be saying, ‘Protect us, and use us more intelligently! Plant more trees! We are life and we can provide it!’” “Conference of Trees” is a profound probe into the lives of the beings that co-inhabit our planet for millennia, and without which our life depends. “My aim here is to empower spectators to immerse themselves in the various perspectives and to experience the subject of the forest in a very unusual manner,” says Pantha du Prince. By taking us to the very core of that being, and by granting us their perspective, even if only momentarily, Pantha Du Prince hopes we can start to grasp the importance of our friendly neighbours, and start to heal our relationship to our ecosystem.
Hendrik Weber aka Pantha Du Prince (‘a fantasy character…a poetic transporter for the concept behind the music’) has carved a niche for a style of techno he calls, ‘layered and cinematographic.’ He released the Diamond Daze (2004) and This Bliss (2007) albums on Berlin dance label Dial before signing to Rough Trade and widening his audience with Black Noise (2010) and The Element of Light (2013).
The last of these was a collaboration with Norwegian percussion ensemble The Bell Laboratory, after Weber had discovered the carillon, an organ-style instrument consisting of 23 bells while recording Black Noise in the Swiss mountains. The collaboration branched out in 2014 to perform Terry Riley’s minimalist masterpiece In C at the Barbican, after which Weber persisted with more humanistic, collaborative work. His 2016 album The Triad featured vocals and studio musicians for the first time.