Brenda  Brown

Listening Gardens

The concept of a viewing garden is familiar.  It is a garden designed for the eyes.  Often viewing gardens are not entered bodily; their use and aesthetic is purely visual and discretionary.  The listening gardens of this project are, analogously, designed for the ears, not to be entered bodily, and dependent on the listener's (as well as the designer's) discretion. Listening Gardens are most of all intended to be experienced in real time.  Sounds from selected outdoor areas are brought indoors to a listening and mixing site. There the listener may choose which site's sounds to hear and emphasize, whether to hear sounds of one, two, three or four sites simultaneously or sequentially, and how to variously combine their intensities.

If one builds a Listening Garden based on the forms and features of a more traditional, spatially constructed garden (particularly in an urban or suburban setting) sound's resistance to spatial boundaries likely becomes all too apparent.  While intermittent sounds of phenomena such as acorns dropping and squirrels' scolding chattering may be obvious, we must often "listen under" ambient noise to hear such sounds as leaves rustling in the breeze.

Yet pervasive ambient sounds include those of evening insects as well as rush-hour traffic, and they often sound different at different sites.  It becomes clear how visual aspects of the environment can affect our experience of its sounds; for example, if that which we see pleases us and also blocks our sight of an undesirable noise's source, it is a better psychological barrier - the nuisance noise is experienced as less intrusive.  On the other hand, we seem to associate movement with sound, and therefore if we see trees bending in the wind we are more attuned to the sounds they make when doing so, even though those sound may be very subtle.  And a visually unobtrusive site may yield surprisingly rich sounds.A Listening Garden also sharpens one's awareness to how sounds change over the course of a day. These gardens are most of all intended for experience in real time.  

One Listening Garden:

This garden is comprised of four sound sites around the building where the indoor listening station and an electronic mixer are located: 1) a tree branch overhanging the building's roof from the north, 2) the area beneath a laurel oak tree which is in an extremely heavy acorn-dropping phase, 3) a cast bronze water-work, and 4) a compost bin in which insects feast mightily. Microphones at each site are connected to the listening station and mixer.  It is up to each listener, or group of listeners, to select and compose  their own "gardens."

Two of a multitude of possible listening garden compositions are documented on sound CDs.  On the Afternoon portion one hears sounds from each site sequentially; one moves from the smallest and most localized sounds of the compost bin to the most loudest, diffused and expansive sounds of the roof.  On the Evening portion, the initial sequential order of the first four selections is reversed -- one moves from the expansive to the earth-bound.  Mixes of sites' sounds follow, but one site's sounds are dominant and continuous in each mix until the finale.
One Listening Garden,daytime cd holder, B. Brown
One Listening Garden-daytime cd holder, B. Brown
One Listening Garden-night-time cd holder, B. Brown
one Listening Garden-night-time cd holder, B. Brown
blue pla 6y.TIF
blue pla 6y.TIF
previous 2.JPG
next 2.JPG