Oral Tree Histories

I spent years trying to find out which tree, out of all the many trees in the world, is the very best tree. This entailed looking at all the characteristics that make a tree the best, such as its beauty, the number of leaves it has, the amount of shade it gives, its flexibility in the wind, and so on.

In many ways I was inspired by other popular contests and investigations into other high-quality categories of things, from human beauty pageants to the Oscars. If we can determine the best candidate in those categories, why not trees?

Once I started looking at trees’ relative bestness, I also become interested in other tree qualities, such as tree dopplegangers. This project, as part of the Best Tree in the World, is an outgrowth of that overall investigation of trees’ testable characteristics.

For this project, I collected oral histories about the significant trees in people’s lives. The first series of oral histories were collected on a minicassette recorder in a location with a high degree of background noise, and while they were very powerful and entertaining stories, their sound quality is not high enough to post here. However, the stories from a later collection date were recorded in a natively digital format, and while there is still background noise, they are much easier to understand. The stories are below.

Michael Josephus


Igor Sourotkine

Angela Maria Castillo


Amie Worley

Desiree Ledet

While I have largely completed the Best Tree in the World series, I am still happy to collect more tree stories. Have you had a significant tree in your life? If so, make an audio recording of it, and email it to me at chris.wildrick at gmail.com.

What kind of stories am I looking for? Anything about trees–trees that fell on your car, trees you liked to climb as a child, trees you carved your girlfriend’s initial into, trees you just spent a lot of time looking at because they’re so beautiful. Anything that made a tree important in your life.

Performed at Artboat2 in Chicago and the Grace Satellite in Stone Ridge New York.

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