Tree tunes: hear my song!

31 January 2020 3 minute read

Are the cold weather and dark afternoons getting you down? We've got a suggestion for you: go for a nature walk while tuning into our tree-inspired music playlist, compiled by tree lovers just like you! 

By Gurnam Bubber

Music and trees have a longstanding relationship - nature has been a wellspring of inspiration for musicians everywhere. We have an ingenious way that you can get involved and have some fun. Do you know any tree themed songs that you love? Add it to our tree tunes list for a small donation to Trees for Cities and check out what other tree loving folk have picked. Let’s share our tree songs and raise money for planting trees in urban areas. 

Maybe this is the excuse you’re looking for to leaf through the rustling forest of music for trees. Or the chance to see how deft you can be at picking out a superb sapling of a song.  

Our list is eclectic from music for eco warriors to music for the heartbroken. For those bittersweet moments we’ve got 'Maple’s lament', big hitter 'Feed the tree' to get you going and when you’re ready drive off with Joni Mitchel’s 'Big yellow taxi'.

I’ve chosen a song from the album ‘Spell Songs’ which came out last year. It’s an offshoot of the astonishingly successful book the Lost Words. When Robert Macfarlane heard that words like ‘acorn’, ‘bluebell’ and ‘buttercup’ were being dropped from the Oxford junior dictionary in favour of words such as ‘broadband’ and ‘cut and paste’. He joined forces with illustrator Jackie Morris to create something to inspire the next generation. They reclaimed common nature words that kids aren’t using any more. “A most beautiful of protests", it brings together Robert’s spells and Jackie’s magical artwork. The result is something otherworldly in its charm and appeal. Across the country campaigns have sprung up to place the book into every school, hospital, hospice, and care home up and down the UK. Last year Trees for Cities ran a successful campaign to place a copy of The Lost Words into every state primary school in London.

Illustration by Jackie Morris

Inspired by this phenomenon, ‘Spell Songs’ is an album that brought eight folk musicians together, charged with a project to “sing nature back to life”. Blooming with illustrations from Jackie Morris and sprinkled with Robert Macfarlanes spells, the album works its own musical cantrip. Like the Kingfisher, one of its subjects, it soars in flight, flashing bright and colourful, glimmering with awe, energy and a rich emotional poignancy. Our connection to the natural world is something we need more than ever. These songs remind us of the delight we’re missing and the ache we’re left with.

Much as I would like to add the whole album to the tunes for Trees, my bank account limits me to one song and it’s hard to pick as there are a few lovely woodsy songs on it. Still my choice has to be Heartwood. A soulful plea from a tree to a woodcutter to stay his axe. A ”charm-against-harm,” written by Robert Macfarlane for Sheffield’s street trees. An anthem for all tree huggers to gather round and perhaps a song to melt the hearts of woodcutters everywhere. These songs are beautiful odes to our wonderful leafy friends and musical food for our souls.

Of course, your song doesn’t have to be the spoken words of a tree, any kind of tree link will do. Be as imaginative as you like. What would you play to your favourite tree? How many can you think of? Go forth and sprout songs for the Tree song list and get your friends to join in - who can come up with the best tune?

Donate to Trees for Cities and together we can help cities grow into greener, cleaner and healthier places for people to live and work worldwide.