-- If A Tree Falls --
7 April 1988. Toronto, Canada.

Found on:

Big Circumstance (1988)

Anything Anytime Anywhere, Singles 1979-2002 (2002) [compilation album]

Slice O Life (2009) [Live]

Rumours of Glory - box set Disc 1 (2014) [compilation album]

Greatest Hits (1970-2020) (2021) [compilation album]

Rain forest
Mist and mystery
Teeming green
Green brain facing labotomy
Climate control centre for the world
Ancient cord of coexistence
Hacked by parasitic greedhead scam -
From Sarawak to Amazonas
Costa Rica to mangy B.C. hills -
Cortege rhythm of falling timber.

What kind of currency grows in these new deserts,
These brand new flood plains?

If a tree falls in the forest does anybody hear?
If a tree falls in the forest does anybody hear?
Anybody hear the forest fall?

Cut and move on
Cut and move on
Take out trees
Take out wildlife at a rate of species every single day
Take out people who've lived with this for 100,000 years -
Inject a billion burgers worth of beef -
Grain eaters - methane dispensers.

Through thinning ozone,
Waves fall on wrinkled earth -
Gravity, light, ancient refuse of stars,
Speak of a drowning -
But this, this is something other.
Busy monster eats dark holes in the spirit world
Where wild things have to go
To disappear

If a tree falls in the forest does anybody hear?
If a tree falls in the forest does anybody hear?
Anybody hear the forest fall?

Known comments by Bruce Cockburn about this song, by date:

  • 25 October 1989

    Terry David Mulligan: "David Suzuki says that your video and song for "If a Tree Falls" had a profound impact upon everyone who saw it and heard it. Did you get that kind of feedback from people?"

    BC: "I've had good feedback about it from people, yeah, I don't know if I'd... I'm not gonna sit here and say 'yes it had a profound impact on everyone who heard it', but..."

    TDM: "But he did."

    BC: "If he said it, that's fine. I'm glad he did. No, I got a lot of positive feedback about that, and some negative too; actually interestingly, a lot of critics didn't like that song. They felt it was too pedantic and I was being too literal and I was "stretching my metaphors too far". I have a two-word response for those people."

    -- from "Stein '89 - Voices in the Wilderness" (hosted by Terry David Mulligan). Interviewer: Terry David Mulligan. Location: MuchMusic (Canadian music video channel). Airdate: 25 October 1989. Submitted by Dave Macklin.

  • 1990

    "Give a guy an echo machine and a whammy bar-- he's likely to use them."

    - from "Rumours of Glory 1980-1990" (songbook), edited by Arthur McGregor, OFC Publications, Ottawa, 1990. Submitted by Rob Caldwell.

  • January 1997

    "[Interviewer: The decimation of the forest is something many of us here are very concerned with. A trip to Brazil, no doubt, compelled you to write "If A Tree Falls."]

    "Actually, it wasn't a trip to Brazil. My exposure to rain forest, with the except on one brief day in Australia, has been in the Northwest, the western coast of North America, which is as much rain forest as anything else. It's just not tropical. So a lot of the time when people talk about the rain forest, they don't realize that they are also talking about the large groves that grow on the west coast of Canada and North America. But I was aware first hand of the destruction of these forests and aware through many sources of the destruction of the tropical rain forests."

    -- from a Kink FM 102 Interview with Jeff Clarke, January 1997. Anonymous submission.

  • 15 June 2010

    On Wednesday (16 June 2010) at Massey Hall, iconic recording artist Bruce Cockburn and guest stars will perform some of his best-known material. Cockburn talks over the set list with Brad Wheeler.

    Written in 1988, the hit single and video from the album Big Circumstance raised awareness of the destruction under way in the Amazon rain forests. Cockburn speaks about the issue, and whether anything has changed.

    "It shifts all the time. When I wrote that song they were cutting down the Amazon rain forest to put in cattle. But that didn’t work out, and the next thing you know they’re planting soybeans. But they’re still cutting down the forests, and they’re still displacing the natives. Corn for the biodiesel trade, that’s the new big thing. You can’t win. You create all this awareness about one aspect of the problem, but as soon as you think you have a foot on top of that, it squeezes out from under and morphs into something else."

    - from Bruce Cockburn Set for Luminato Honours - 40 Years of songs to Live By by Brad Wheeler.

  • 2021

    "A radio documentary on some college station about the destruction of Borneo rainforest --- a resonance with the temperate rainforests of BC --- the Amazon in flames..."

    ~ from the liner notes of Greatest Hits (1970-2020)

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    This page is part of The Cockburn Project, a unique website that exists to document the work of Canadian singer-songwriter and musician Bruce Cockburn. The Project archives self-commentary by Cockburn on his songs and music, and supplements this core part of the website with news, tour dates, and other current information.