When you go down to the woods today
You’re in for a delightful surprise. Well, you would be if you were walking through this forest on Japan’s southern island of Kyushu. You’ll hear the sounds of bird song, of flowing water. Perhaps a gentle breeze rustling the leaves. Sure. But then a familiar melody begins wafting faintly through the air. What is that? Ah, Bach. But there’s no orchestra. No sound system. You’re in a forest, after all.
You’re not dreaming. It is cantata 147, Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring — the final movement to Bach’s renowned cantata Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben. But it’s unlike any version you’ve heard before. It’s being played on a xylophone, a very big xylophone made from surplus wood.
In a collaboration with carpenter Mitsuo Tsuda and sound engineer Kenjiro Matsuo, Creative Director Morihiro Harano and his team at Mori Inc. have painstakingly built and placed a 44-metre long xylophone in the forest. The ‘Forest Xylophone’ is made of hundreds of pieces of different-sized wood, each panel along its length making a different sound when struck by a cascading wooden ball placed at the top of the instrument.