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What is "The Trees" about?


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#1 rftag

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Posted 27 June 2015 - 12:20 AM

There's been so much talk about this song. Some see an endorsement of libertarian politics in it, some see it as an allegory for civil rights movements, and some just think its about the futility of conflict in general.

Neil says it has no message:

From Google:

"When asked in the April/May 1980 Modern Drummer magazine about whether there is a message to this song, Peart said, "No. It was just a flash. I was working on an entirely different thing when I saw a cartoon picture of these trees carrying on like fools. I thought, 'What if trees acted like people?' So I saw it as a cartoon really, and wrote it that way. I think that's the image that it conjures up to a listener or a reader. A very simple statement."

My High School English teacher presented the lyrics of "The Trees" to us amongst poems we were to write essays about, pondering their meaning. She took it to be about the US civil rights struggle, asserting that the Oaks where the whites and the Maples the blacks, and that the reference to "shade" below was an obvious allusion to skin color:

"But the oaks can't help their feelings
If they like the way they're made
And they wonder why the maples
Can't be happy in their shade"

Others have interpreted the Oaks as the UK and the Maples as Canada and see this as being about Canada's struggle for independence from Britain, and others see the Oaks as a metaphor for the US overshadowing Canada, the Maples (both seem dubious interpretations to me; what does the 'noble law' refer to in this context?).

Of course, some interpret the song as an obnoxious endorsement of Ayn Rand school libertarian political philosophy, and see the oppressive oaks as both the heroes and victims of the story; they ought to dominate the lesser Maples, but are unjustly cut down to size by the 'noble law', informed by a naive sense of equality that leads to all trees being destroyed.

Thoughts?

Edited by rftag, 27 June 2015 - 01:06 AM.


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#2 treeduck

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Posted 27 June 2015 - 12:48 AM

Trees maybe?

#3 bathory

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Posted 27 June 2015 - 12:49 AM

I just figured it was ayn rand

#4 bathory

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Posted 27 June 2015 - 12:51 AM

neil telling people it has no message seems like an easy way to avoid getting shit from the music industry for leaning right.

#5 Lucas

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Posted 27 June 2015 - 12:55 AM

I am from NJ, and I'm sure some of our Canadian members here could shed some more light on the Quebec Sovereignty Movement / Parti Québécois as I remember learning about this years ago, and drawing definite some parallels with The Trees ...

I tend to see Hemispheres as the swansong of Neil's fascination with Rand

The influences are all over Hemispheres, but in a more individualized, stylized manner ... Apollo and Dionysius were used by Rand in her analysis  the events of 1969 - Woodstock and the moon landing ... Neil took some inspiration from this, but in a very different way than earlier in his career, when he took the inspiration more literal  ...

The Trees does end with a very succinct point though, which makes it apparent that Rand's influence still had a role in his perspective ..


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Edited by Lucas, 27 June 2015 - 12:59 AM.


#6 bathory

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Posted 27 June 2015 - 12:57 AM

I wonder if the 3 red balls on HYF had anything to do with rand. probably not but I remember someone in the fountainhead talking about 3 red balls or some shit?

#7 Symmetre

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Posted 27 June 2015 - 06:22 AM

I think the song is about trees acting like people sometimes do - whiny.

rftag, your high schjool English teacher is seeing things that don't exist.

#8 fraroc

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Posted 27 June 2015 - 06:35 AM

It can literally be about anything you want when it comes to talking about conflict

#9 laughedatbytime

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Posted 27 June 2015 - 06:41 AM

 bathory, on 27 June 2015 - 12:51 AM, said:

neil telling people it has no message seems like an easy way to avoid getting shit from the music industry for leaning right.
This.

It's about socialism.  Disawov the sentiments if you're so inclined but don't lie about it.

#10 fraroc

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Posted 27 June 2015 - 10:25 AM

Okay, time to climb on the soapbox. Now this is not trying to objectively define what The Trees is about, this is just my personal intepretation after listening to the song a lot. It is indeed a damn good song :) I'll rundown the lyrics and with each verse, explain my point.

Okay...

The Oaks: The Mainstream Media

The Maples: LGBT people

The Sunlight: Representation in the media

"There is unrest in the forest, there is trouble with the trees,
for the maples want more sunlight and the oaks ignore their pleas."

Pretty self explanatory. A lot of LGBT people I know would like to see more openly gay, bisexual, or transgender characters on TV shows in mainstream media represented in the same way straight characters are, however it seems that a lot of shows don't listen to what they want and either flat out ignore their pleas, or make LGBT characters a walking, breathing stereotype.

"The trouble with the maples, and they're quite convinced they're right
They say the oaks are just to lofty and they grab up all the light,
But the oaks can't help their feelings if they like the way they're made.
And they wonder why the maples can't be happy in their shade."

Okay, with this one, we see LGBT people making their point that they don't get equal representation in the media. However the mainstream media has trouble understanding their plight. Even if the head honchos support gay rights, they simply don't get what the other side wants and they wonder why they can't be happy with the gay characters already on TV. (The really stereotypical background characters that don't get much characterization or just exist solely to be a token.)

"There is trouble in the forest and the creatures all have fled,
as the maples scream "OPPRESSION" and the oaks just shake their heads."

Once again, both sides are at a standstill. Maybe instead of screaming "Oppression!" they scream "Inequality!", either way, the top media execs still have trouble figuring out what the LGBT community wants, despite having it been explained to them several times.


"So the maples formed a union and demanded equal rights.
The oaks are just too greedy, we will make them give us light!"

Realistically, instead of a union, petitions would be made to give the LGBT community a voice, "Let them know we want equality in the media!"

"Now there's no more oak oppression, for they passed a noble law,
and the tress are all kept equal by hatchet, axe and saw."

Now this last line of the song was pretty difficult to interpret. This scenario would totally not end up in people cutting up each other like trees. This where it stops being literal and starts being figurative. My interpretation of this final line is....this is an example of how banning things to avoid offending people is toxic to both sides. The "noble law" is a law that states that no TV show can display any heterosexual couples at the risk of offending LGBT people. It was put in place as a f***ed up alternative to giving the LGBT community what they wanted the whole time. All they wanted was main, non stereotypical characters that are gay, bi, trans or any letter on the acronym.

There is no more oppression or inequality, but there is also no more satisfaction. The LGBT community never got what they desired, and now everyone else is effected by the so-called "Noble Law"

Edited by fraroc, 27 June 2015 - 10:28 AM.


#11 LittleRushmonkey

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Posted 27 June 2015 - 10:30 AM

It's about anything you want it to. You can think it's about conflict, equality, a metaphor for humans, or just simply a story about trees.

They have written as song about a man fighting a snow dog so I don't see why it can't be just about trees.

#12 Tony R

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Posted 27 June 2015 - 10:38 AM

It's about setting the bar too low and making everybody equally average.


#13 circumstantial tree

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Posted 27 June 2015 - 10:39 AM

I live next to Raleigh, NC - the City of Oaks. :D

#14 laughedatbytime

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Posted 27 June 2015 - 10:42 AM

 circumstantial tree, on 27 June 2015 - 10:39 AM, said:

I live next to Raleigh, NC - the City of Oaks. :D
Raleigh is the media capital of the world?     Who knew?

#15 Tombstone Mountain

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Posted 27 June 2015 - 10:43 AM

This is where Neil got the inspiration. Fascinating--TM
http://www.therushfo...s-on-the-trees/

Posted 14 March 2015 - 10:08 PM

The Yukon Blade Grinder

presents


Origins of Rush Songs:

The Trees


By Werner Herzog

Posted Image

I remember the day the Yukon Blade Grinder approached me for a new article in their controversial thread. Little did they know I’m a fan. I’ve been a member of The Rush Forum since its genesis, secretly posting under the user name "The Ecstatic Truth". When the call came, I was deep in the script for my new film Wallace and Gromit: The Hunt for the Bones of Kinski. Animation is a new medium for me, and working with clay is something I’ve always enjoyed. Gromit. Such a fascinating, sympathetic character. As usual I’m a sucker for a diversion in my life.

Molding new reality from lumps of earth excites me for some reason. It does the same for my wife. One of our favorite movies is Ghost, and sometimes, when the mood is right, we re-enact that famous scene with Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze. Sparks re-emerge in our relationship as we speak German and Russian to each other during those passionate times. Such eroticism between the young and old is certainly worthy of poetic prose. However I digress.


Posted Image


Yearning for the next act in my movie to pop in my head, I sat in my office, begging the trance of creativity to descend upon me. Just as inspiration was about to arrive, I heard the phone ring and I knew it was a message from God. Listening to this rather articulate man, known only as Tombstone Mountain, I was convinced a story was there to be had and well worth exposing. A script can wait. I wrote Strozek in three days—no big deal.

My wife, who is 30 years my junior and a mail order bride from Russia, was intrigued by this voice as well. She described it a cross between Barry White, Pee Wee Herman, and Sergie Bubka.


Posted ImagePosted Image


Indeed. There was this vaulted warmth, an authority about him. A playful, mischievous element provoked my imagination. He described a situation of vitriol, love, and pity on The Rush Forum. Rush is winding a career down. Knowing the Forum the way I do, this man knew I could bring a unique perspective to this rumbling of emotions, and talk about the pure sacrifice of endurance a certain member of the band had to endure.

How could I not oblige?

My Life in Film

Most people know my work for its unflinching portrayal of people striving for greatness only to fall victim to our common fate. The need to matter in a universe of anti-matter permeates us, infiltrating our souls. Inspiration, like the eagle, can soar above the dreamy landscapes of our minds. Always problematic for the bird, danger lurks as we know eagles can be hit with an arrow, bullet, or stone. I should know. I’ve been hit with all three. The stone is the worst. Immediately painful.

Making sense of this story, and conveying it to The Rush Forum would be a piece of cake I thought compared to those experiences.

Der Hoden Chimes der Schwarzwaldes

The Yukon Blade Grinder inquired for me to search out the seeds of life to the song The Trees, written  by Neil Peart. Didn't have to go far. I was there shortly after it was written. Neil showed up to my house a mess, with bloody scratch marks all over his body.

The YBG has been kind to me in the past, after the debacle of the Clockwork Angels tour. Time heals all wounds. The band is coming to the end of their time in the sun, and this song is being uncovered again for the faithful throngs of fans. Augmented by an intro for the ages during the Exit...Stage Left tour, it has burned a place in the mind of the Rush fan, and is an all-time classic--musically and lyrically. How did Neil come to write such a fantastic piece of work, with implications far exceeding the simple lyrics? Here's how...read on fellow Grinders!

In my homeland of Germany the Black Forest awaits. A place of great beauty and mystery. Ancient stories have resonance in the collective German conscience and are part and parcel of who we are as a people. The parable of Broom Hilda is just one of those timeless stories which gives Aesop a run for his money. Greeks think they know everything about morality tales…ach mein gott!


Posted Image


The Black Forest.

I remember Klaus Kinski and I would spend hours in that place, thinking of things to put into his autobiography. Most of them fabricated, but what does it matter? Inspiration, even if its origins are complete bullshit, can lead people into action, taking the mantle of control of their own lives. Just ask Barack Obama.

Many times I have sat alone in that forest contemplating life as birds chirp with such freedom, such joy. Even when it rains the beauty will not subside, as if impervious to the bleak monochrome hue of gray clouds. If one is especially still, the deer come to you and eat out of your hand. But there is more to be seen, and heard.



Posted Image

And on that rare day of the vernal equinox, at the precise moment of planetary equilibrium, when day and night share the exact same duration, a species of chipmunk known only to the black forest, will come sit on your shoulder and whisper the tale of Broom Hilda. Germans call this phenomenon Der Test. So titled because one must remain completely still, entirely motionless. You mustn’t giggle as those cute little rodents tickle your ear, while telling tales of yesteryear. Hard to do, for these creatures wear lederhosen and sing German drinking songs as they approach you. Though quite comical in appearance, it’s deadly serious. For if you give in to the desire to laugh, they attack you.

Many have died trying to make it out of the wood. Neil made it out, by stomping a ton of chipmunks. For most however, the chipmunks are almost always too great in number. Neil has very large feet and tried to keep the mayhem down to a minimum. He did. On the other hand, Kinski is really to blame for the severe reduction of the chipmunk population. When he went through der fehdehandschuh der deutsch streifenhornchen, he had a pistol on him, with four 30 round clips he bought while in Afghanistan.

Posted Image
Klaus Kinski--Chipmunk Killer   

Posted Image
Neil Peart--Chipmunk Slayer

But, If a traveler succumbs to the attack, their bare bones are taken to the legendary crypt of Broomhilda, and testicles are hung from the tall oak trees, creating a sound like wooden chimes that resonate with a peace that forces one to sit and listen. When it happens, a cocoon of serenity, a glow surrounds you. Before you know it, you’re sitting on Der Shiester Throne, which magically appears out of nowhere, giving superhuman inspiration to those who seek it.

Neil sat on that throne, and thus a song was born. He won't tell you how he actually came to write the lyrics, because the wounds he sustained are permanent, and carry a harsh weight. Many holy texts tell us "tis a sin to kill a mockingbird", well, in Germany, to kill a chipmunk is just as bad. Neil has to live with those scars. So, when the band cranks up this classic remember the man behind the kit went through much to bring you the magic of the Black Forest. Balls intact.

So until our next installment, should the Yukon Blade Grinder be so kind to ask me to share, I bid you Auf Wiedersehen und viel Glück!

Edited by Tombstone Mountain, 27 June 2015 - 10:44 AM.


#16 Tony R

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Posted 27 June 2015 - 10:45 AM

 LittleRushmonkey, on 27 June 2015 - 10:30 AM, said:

It's about anything you want it to. You can think it's about conflict, equality, a metaphor for humans, or just simply a story about trees.

They have written as song about a man fighting a snow dog so I don't see why it can't be just about trees.

It cannot be about anything you want it to be. What kind of nonsense is that?
It was written with a specific message in mind. You can interpret it any way you want but only one interpretation will be correct.

#17 fraroc

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Posted 27 June 2015 - 10:48 AM

 Tony R, on 27 June 2015 - 10:45 AM, said:

 LittleRushmonkey, on 27 June 2015 - 10:30 AM, said:

It's about anything you want it to. You can think it's about conflict, equality, a metaphor for humans, or just simply a story about trees.

They have written as song about a man fighting a snow dog so I don't see why it can't be just about trees.

It cannot be about anything you want it to be. What kind of nonsense is that?
It was written with a specific message in mind. You can interpret it any way you want but only one interpretation will be correct.

I love disagreeing with you, so I'll be the one to tell you that the Trees definitley has more than one meaning. It all has one central theme, conflict, but it's not all one version of conflict that's set in stone.

#18 Lorraine

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Posted 27 June 2015 - 10:48 AM

About the insanity of equal rights?

#19 ReRushed

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Posted 27 June 2015 - 10:48 AM

 Tony R, on 27 June 2015 - 10:45 AM, said:

 LittleRushmonkey, on 27 June 2015 - 10:30 AM, said:

It's about anything you want it to. You can think it's about conflict, equality, a metaphor for humans, or just simply a story about trees.

They have written as song about a man fighting a snow dog so I don't see why it can't be just about trees.

It cannot be about anything you want it to be. What kind of nonsense is that?
It was written with a specific message in mind. You can interpret it any way you want but only one interpretation will be correct.
Seriously. How the hell can "The Trees" be about anything you want it to be?

#20 psionic11

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Posted 27 June 2015 - 10:49 AM

When you take the concepts out of The Trees, you can use them for many things.  Let's strip out the concepts and see what we're left with

two opposing sides
inequality
abundance on one side
oppression or lack on the other side
tension
joining of forces ("formed a union")
(violent) resolution

Now as you can see, you can apply those concepts to many common themes and situations and make it fit, as you can see by the examples posted.

I think what's also interesting is the end result.  The trees are forcefully all made equal, but that's a ridiculous thing.  Equality is not necessarily the "right" thing to do.  So depending on which side you're rooting for, you can use the story to support your reasoning, with the final result (chopped down trees) defending one position, but the unnatural resolution (chopped down trees) defending the opposite position...

Edited by psionic11, 27 June 2015 - 10:51 AM.





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