Paths II: The Music of Trees is
a series of sound installations that explore the layers and permutations of
acoustic space in seven sites throughout Seattle's Washington Park Arboretum.
Each installation creates a sonic dialogue with its acoustic and physical
space. The striking forms of the trees and plants, as well as their
relationship to the surrounding environments, provide a unique opportunity for
the artistic and physical exploration of sound in space.
In the Arboretum, a number of sound worlds coexist: the
delicate whispers of leaves falling to the ground are interrupted by the buzzing
of bees in search of nectar. The laughter of children and the scampering of wildlife
exist in contrast to traffic from Lake Washington Blvd., and air traffic above.
The sounds used in each installation were gathered on-site from this enormous
variety of sources and perspectives. Paths
II brings these simultaneous yet distinct layers of sound into dialogue
with one another.
The Arboretum’s soundscape is dynamic: it varies by precise
location and depends on the time of year, day of the week and especially time
of day. Whereas the beauty of the trees and plants is apparent at first
sight, the nature of the soundscapes at each site is constantly shifting, and
is only truly revealed after a period of reflection.
Composing these pieces was first and foremost an experience
in silent reflection--of returning to the sites in different seasons, to listen
at different times of the day and in different weather. Each visit
revealed new elements of the soundscapes and ultimately affected the nature of
the pieces composed.
But while I visited the sites regularly over the course of a
year, many of the pieces explore only a single sound memory chosen from the hours
of recording. The event is captured and re-framed to be part real acoustic
memory, and part imaginary soundscape. In writing these pieces, I have been
keenly aware that they are ultimately only a single layer of the intricate web
of sound in the Arboretum. Rather than existing as independent
compositions, they function as a bridge between the blur of daily hearing and
the potential for deep listening
at each site. The pieces bring attention to the Arboretum’s dynamic
soundscape, but also depend on it to bring new life to each listening: as each
piece cycles back to the beginning, it is framed in a new context of Arboretum
The installation is named after the first piece I wrote as a
doctoral student at UW. Often, in
composing, I find myself following a number of divergent paths before settling
on the one that best fits the project. Like its namesake, the process of
writing Paths II was one of constant
exploration. While ideas
transformed over the course of time, many returned or found their way—sometimes
unexpectedly—into the final work. The title is significant not only because of its relationship to an earlier work, but also because it describes how I hope people will experience the work--not feeling the need to follow a prescribed order but making their own paths through the piece.
listening is a term coined by composer Pauline Oliveros.