Enter your username and password

Forgotten your username or password?

Your Shopping Cart

There are no items in your shopping cart.


How forests think : for sheng and ensemble

by Liza Lim (2016)

Score Sample

View a sample of the score of this work

Audio Sample

Performance by Elision Ensemble, Wei Wu, Carl Rosman from the CD wreck of former boundaries

wreck of former boundaries


This item may be available to purchase from the Australian Music Centre.
Please contact our Sales Department to confirm pricing and availability.


The wreck of former boundaries : ELISION Ensemble at 30.

Library shelf no. CD 2850 [Not for loan]

How forests think


Add to cart


How forests think / Liza Lim.

Library shelf no. Q 785.5219/LIM 2 [Available for loan]

Work Overview

How Forests think reflects on the work of anthropologist Eduardo Kohn who writes about forest ecologies as the 'living thought' of human and non-human selves. Each of these selves may have its own subjectivity, creating the world with its own registers of knowledge, sensation and meaning. These selves organize into communities: in ancient forests, a stump may be kept alive for centuries by the surrounding trees through underground fungal networks that nourish the old connections and keep a song going. One might think of a forest as a choir or certainly as an ensemble. Stories, dreams and thoughts inhabit multiple forms in a living matrix; they ask us to look beyond our limited human gaze and limited human time-span.

How Forests think is music made from assemblages of instruments whose qualities are like tendrils looking for places on which to clasp and entangle themselves. Its forms are emergent, like plants growing toward light and water; like mycelial strands entwining with tree roots in a co-evolving internet of plant-life. The music emerges out of criss-crossing conversations patterned like roots, vines, fungal networks; or like airborne, insect and animal-borne cross-pollinations (the breath, the buzz, the scratch, the love songs), where one thing looks for best fit with another.

The Chinese sheng is an instrument with a 4,000-year old lineage, and Wu Wei has been instrumental in developing the 37-pipe sheng for contemporary music. The cluster of bamboo tubes is activated by the musician's breath vibrating internal reeds, making flutters traditionally associated with the mythical phoenix that rises from the ashes of its own funeral pyre. There is something intensely organic in how the interactions between breath and reed and bamboo pipe create a flowering of sound that may not be completely predictable - one hears a trace of the wind in the forest. Neither the wind nor any weather, nor growing things can be completely controlled, contained or resisted - there is a tempest of forces that dwells in the forest. That tempest is also a song in us.

Work Details

Year: 2016

Instrumentation: Sheng, flute/bass flute, oboe/cor anglais, clarinet/bass clarinet, alto saxophone, trumpet, trombone, percussion, cello, double bass.

Duration: 35 min.

Contents note: I. Tendril & Rainfall -- II. Mycelia -- III. Pollen -- IV. The Trees.

Dedication note: Dedicated to John Davis

First performance: by Elision Ensemble at BIFEM: How Forests Think (The Capital, Capital Theatre) on 3 Sep 2016

Awards & Prizes

Year Award Placing Awarded for/to
2017 Art Music Awards: Work of the Year: Instrumental Winner Liza Lim


Resonate article: 2017 Art Music Awards finalists: comments by judging panels by Australian Music Centre

Resonate article: Travels in hyper-reality by Liza Lim


How forests think - trailer

Composer Liza Lim, Chinese Sheng player Wu Wei, and members of the ELISION Ensemble introduces her work 'How Forests Think' during its rehearsal and performance at //hcmf2017.

How forests think - Liza Lim interview

In advance of the ELISION ensemble's 2017 tour to Shanghai and their performance of How Forests Think for Shanghai New Music Week, Liza filmed this discussion of the work and the ideas that inform the composition. Excerpts from Elision 2016 HCMF rehearsal and performance are included.

How forests think

Performed as part of the Mostly Mozart Festival, presented by the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Merkin Concert Hall, August 2017 (US Premiere)


Performances of this work

31 May 2019: at ELISION in Taiwan: On the fringe of noise and silence (National Concert Hall, Taipei). Featuring Elision Ensemble.

14 Aug 2017: at International Contemporary Ensemble (Lincoln Center (US)). Featuring International Contemporary Ensemble.

22 Nov 2016: at Elision (St Paul's Hall (Huddersfield)). Featuring Elision Ensemble.

3 Sep 2016: at BIFEM: How Forests Think (The Capital, Capital Theatre). Featuring Elision Ensemble.

User reviews

Be the first to share your thoughts, opinions and insights about this work.

To post a comment please login.