This year, students on the Sonic Arts course at Brunel, working with Dr Colin Riley and Dr Carl Faia and in partnership with the Papworth Trust, were instrumental in creating the first acoustic garden at the Chelsea Flower Show which ran from Monday 23 May until Sunday 28 May. Congratulations to the students who gave sound to a Silver Gilt award-winning garden ‘Together We Can’ at one of the greatest flower shows in the world, taking place each year on the site of the Royal Chelsea Hospital and organised by the Royal Horticultural Society.
Dame Evelyn Glennie pictured below, the first person in history to successfully create and sustain a full-time career as a profoundly deaf solo percussionist and who performs worldwide with the greatest conductors, orchestras, and artists, worked closely with Brunel students over the last four months. She not only opened the Flower Show but closed it too and in commenting about the acoustic garden said that: “It is really mesmerizing and you can almost feel people drop their shoulders and be drawn into the garden.”
The students were:
Ardeshir Mostajeran (team coordinator)
Graeme Shaw and Phil Maguire, music technicians, assisted in bringing the project to life.
The unique project included a live electronic soundscape designed by the students which was evoked directly from the moving elements of the garden itself. Like a kind of shifting light display but in musical terms, this sonic world engaged the senses of the visitor to the garden, changing the whole idea of how a garden can interact with us.
A water marimba generated the garden’s acoustic pulse, harnessing natural materials of the landscape – water, sun, wood, earth, and so the garden itself became a musical instrument.
The garden’s backdrop was a natural woodland copse of birch and hazel, strikingly interwoven with features that evoked the equipment of a recording studio. In the foreground, water cascaded from the pool. Precisely sawn York stone set in concentric radial patterns resembled sound waves transmitting towards the audience. Green oak monoliths and solid benches sculpted to mimic the sinuous lines of the garden added to the acoustic pattern. Overall the form of the garden was reminiscent of the structure of the ear. Soft planting created a diaphanous, dancing screen that might sway to the music, with floral soloists adding to the horticultural concerto.
Colin Riley, Senior Lecturer of Music, said: “One great thing about music at Brunel is that we foster entrepreneurs in music. They are going to be our makers of tomorrow in what is a forward-thinking as well as creative business. This is a wonderful experience for our students.”
The response to the garden throughout the week was fantastic, with spectators lingering, entranced by the power of the multi-sensory experience with one woman even leaving the garden in *happy* tears.
The Together We Can garden concept combined Evelyn’s motto “Teach the World to Listen” with the vision of Papworth Trust to “Help us create a world where disabled people are seen for what they can do.” Papworth Trust supports more than 5,000 disabled people each year through services from employment to housing.