An Orchestra

Composed by Nature, Revealed by Machine, Played by Human

Serenade of the Woods was initially inspired by Swedish autumn woodlands while artist Lisa Chang Lee made her visit in 2015.

Uttersberg, the place is called. Surrounded by diverse forests and lakes, the quietness helps one discover the heart beats, thousands kinds of sounds made by insects crawling through the grass, streams running behind the wooden sheds as well as drops of morning dew. And there you see golden leaves of baby poplars twinkling in breeze amid the ocean of old pines, as if they are composing silent songs for eternity and the fascinating creation of the universe.

In this collaborative project between Lisa Lee and sound artist James Wilkie, the machine is used as a tool to reveal and uncover the rhythms of nature beyond our sensations. We raised whether the idea of machine has to be inhuman and anti-nature or whether it can be used as a tool of approaching nature, which, on reflection to Eastern philosophy, is to become a natural part of the original order. The way to discover that original order is to turn to nature.

“Serenade of the Woods" explores and deduce the boundaries and possibilities between contemporary technology and naturalism, and uses the objectivity of computer science to dissolve the binary opposition between technology and nature, so to restore a kind of oriental uniformity (QI WU theory, Chuangtsu). Through the analysis of computer data, the rhythm of plants in the breeze is read, and “resonated” into musical scores. In the collaboration between the two artists, responsible for the programming part and according to the core concept of the work, James Wilkie applies French composer Olivier Messiaen’s system called Modes of limited transposition, which was inspired by the oriental music and natural birds song. The video clips taken by Lee are digitalized by Wilkie then analyzed by computer algorithms. Algorithms process the movement of the plants swaying in the breeze - the stronger and more frequent the movement, the more the algorithm unlocks notes of a secret melody for the plant to play. Each plant is given a musical instrument that corresponds to the synesthetic form of sound. Just like the relationship between visual forms and sounds explained by Wassily Kandinsky in "Point and Line to Plane" as scientific experiments, “Serenade of the Woods" reverses this audiovisual synesthesia to create a symphony of various instruments. The musical scripts written by nature are then played by human performers as live performance as well as audiovisual installation.

Digital visualisation with 5.1 surround sound system

Chapter 1:

Chapter 2:

Chapter 3:

This latest and most advanced version uses French Composer Messiaen's "Modes of Limited Transposition" for the plants to interact with.

A Lineal Version edited for the Visions moving image biennale at the Nunnery Gallery 2018

Meet the composers -

Chapter 1

Pine tree family

Chapter 2


Chapter 3

Oak and white flowers

Chapter 4

Wild white flowers

Chapter 5


Chapter 6

Forest of snow drops

Violinist Ruby Colley responding to the installation


We are looking to transform this project into an immersive experience by experimenting with 360-degree camera.

A Work in Progress pop-up event will be hosted at the Raffles in Tabacco Dock in June 2019(date to be confirmed) . Meanwhile, a music album in limited edition will soon be released later this year.