Tree-lovers are turning their backs on hugs in favour of singing. A choir will serenade disease-ravaged kauri in the hope the stricken giants of the forest will respond to human sound.
Auckland composer Phil Dadson has been commissioned to create a work highlighting the destructive kauri dieback at next month's Auckland Arts Festival. He has recruited 20 tree-lovers with a musical ear to form a choir and is composing a "conversation with nature".
Many in the project are hoping their efforts will add to the fight against dieback, a fungus-like disease that damages the tree's roots, reducing the amount of nutrients carried to the tree. Kauri have no natural resistance and there is no known treatment.
Dadson said the work would be performed near infected trees in the Waitakere Ranges but it was too soon to say if it would be a live or recorded presentation. It could last for hours and would feature vocal improvisation and drums.
"We won't be singing hymns or songs. It's more a conversation with nature," said Dadson.
Kauri Project curator and chorister Ariane Craig-Smith said the performance offered the potential to speak to the forest.
"The process of people singing together is very powerful. There's a kind of magic that happens.
"There's a slightly romantic sense that we can speak to the trees, somehow.
"We don't know what impact the vibrations might have."
She said for the past 150 years, kauri had played an important role in the nation's economic, political and social history. It was now time for people to consider how they valued the tree and what they could do to help preserve it.
A second musical dieback installation by artist Ian Clothier would feature a stricken kauri at the former French Bay residence of artist Colin McCahon.
Electronic sensors detecting nutrient movement would be converted into an electronic sound file and piped into a nearby Te Uru gallery in Titirangi.