Caution Baum

[2014, June 6, World Premiere, Staatliche Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst, Stuttgart, 22 minutes]

In July 2013, I visited the forests of Allgäu. Forester Uli Herkle with whom I stayed explained the process of maintaining and harvesting the forests there, and he shared with me one striking anecdote. One day, two people, a man and a woman, who walk the paths of the forest each day, noticed that of two trees, which they always regard, one had been cut. They contacted Uli directly to tell him that they believed this to be terrible. Uli had cut the tree due to disease from all the driving along the trail beside it. Feeling terrible himself about this occurrence, four weeks later, Uli was especially surprised when the couple approached him again. “We have found it,” they said. The tree is now growing only 100 meters down the way.

The opera Caution Baum was created and directed for the State University of Music and Performing Arts in Stuttgart, Germany (2014) as part of the “Lost and Found” Kongress für Stimmkunst und Neues Musiktheater. Working with six vocalists and three instrumentalists I created the opera, Caution Baum, for live performance and video. The loose narrative of the piece surrounds notions of esotericism within the forests of southern Germany. Throughout the opera the performers whisper the line ‘see something, say something’ with regards to the death and reappearance of a tree/Baum. Stuttgart has seen protests in recent years surrounding political rights in regards to redevelopment of its train station and the destruction of city park trees. Caution Baum is the first in a three-tiered project, Caution bomb, which in its various iterations takes up the US Homeland Security slogan ‘see something, say something’ through composition and oration. Still images by Oliver Rockle.