Although it's sometimes portrayed as an ancient question from the mysterious realms of some temple, the "tree falls" puzzle first appeared in print during the 1880s, so this is actually a late Victorian brainteaser.
Sean (in his question) wanted it to be clear he wasn't being awkward, he really wants to know if there is an answer to the riddle. i'm going to argue that there just might be. The answer all depends on your definition of the word "sound". And this is a very important point to remember about all Philosophy: the answer can sometimes change depending on what the words mean.
The first major philosopher is usually considered to be Socrates. There were earlier ones, but they are referred to, rather tellingly, as pre-Socractic which gives you an idea of Socrates' impact. The philosophical revolution started by Socrates marks a watershed in Western thinking and one of Socrates' most common themes was that defining our terms is key to any philosophical discussion.
Ludwig Wittgenstein, two millenia later, argued that all philosophical discussion was a result of misunderstanding language and that the way we use words are crucial to any discussion on anything. At least I think that's what he was saying, honestly I've read both Wittengenstein's books and I definitely think I understood at least 3% of what he was saying.
Wittgenstein argued that by using words to define other words we'll end up in an eternal loop of never being able to explain or define anything. He was great at dinner parties.
In order to answer the quesiton however, I'm going to say that sound is the result of the following chain of events:
1) An object moves.
2) The air particles are bumped.
3) A pressure wave travels.
4) The eardrum is vibrated by the wave.
5) The brain percieves it.
If a tree falls in the forest, then we've definitely accepted 1, 2 & 3 will happen but 4 & 5 will not. So to boil the question down to its components (a process which philosophers call "logical analysais") we end up with a different question: is the word "sound" referring to a pressure wave of air or the brain's perception of a moving eardrum? If we can agree on what the word sound means then Science can immediately provide an answer.
I would like, therefore, to draw attention to how we use the word sound in other contexts to give us a clue about what we unconsciously mean when we say it.
Supposing a deaf person stood in a room with the television on. Usually we would say "the person can't hear the sound of the TV" but we would very rarely say "there is no sound in that room". Or supposing we put a microphone in a room with a firework going off. We would comfortably say "the microphone will pick up the sound" rather than "the microphone doesn't pick up any sound".
We could argue that the microphone only picks up pressure waves and that sound doesn't exist until our ears play back the recording, but this isn't what people mean. If someone said "the microphone didn't pick up any sound" we would interpret that to mean the microphone wasn't working, or the firework didn't go off i.e. we are assuming the firework's explosion causes the sound. Instinctively, we tend to assume that sound is coming from the object in the room, not the detecting equipment.
We don't refer to our ears "creating sound" we refer to them "hearing a sound". I therefore suggest that the way people tend to use the word "sound", means the actual pressure wave moving through the air.
So, the tree will fall under gravity, causing the air particles to move out of the way. If we accept that the tree and the air will behave under normal laws of nature then the answer to the question is : Yes, the tree does make a sound.
The philosopher George Berkley spent a lot of time writing on this very topic and even talked about the fact that trees may not exist when not percieved, which prompted the revered Ronald Knox to write a rather nifty limmerick. A nice note to end on perhaps:
There was a young man who said, "God
Must think it exceedingly odd
If he finds that this tree
Continues to be
When there's no one about in the Quad."
Your astonishment's odd:
I am always about in the Quad.
And that's why the tree
Will continue to be,
Since observed by