Initiated in 2001, Florasonic commissions artists to create sound installations for Lincoln Park Conservatory's Fern Room. Florasonic is the only ongoing sound installation commissioning program in the United States.
Rob Mazurek's composition Psychotropic Electric Eel Dream IV in the Lincoln Park Conservatory Fern Room uses sounds generated by electric eels at the National Institute of Research and Technology in Manaus, Brazil.
What you'll hear in the Fern Room is Night Songs for the Birds of North America by JOSHUA DUMAS—a four-channel exploration of translation, memory, and mass extinction in the anthropocene.
In 'A Confounding Mimicry,' married collaborators Jenny Kendler & Brian Kirkbride employ field recordings, magical realism and synesthetic image-to-audio processing to present a seemingly straightforward nature recording that is anything but.
What you'll hear in the Fern Room is The Glass House by Chicago composer and percussionist Tim Daisy. The composition reflects various aspects of the structure of the building itself. It is recorded in four sections that play simultaneously, each supporting the other, much like the metal ribs of the four corners of the Fern Room support the overall structure. These musical sections are of different lengths, so they continuously mix and remix in surprising and unpredictable ways. The instruments, including vibraphone, cymbals, radio and turntables, recall both the materials of the building and its location in an increasingly technologized environment. The Glass House explores the sounds hidden within the Conservatory’s architecture and acknowledges its function as an urban home for botanical diversity.
If you look and listen closely in the Fern Room, you’ll notice some of the ferns trembling. This is Susurrati, an installation by Chicago artist Deborah Stratman with collaborator Rob Ray. Solenoids programmed at rhythmic intervals control the vibration patterns and add a faint tapping clatter, like an idiosyncratic Morse code. The Fern Room becomes a horto-fictional set, animated by selectively vibrating ferns. Plants turn into communicants that seem to whisper rumors about something unforeseen. If sound is “touch at a distance,” Susurrati is a composition of trembles.
What you'll hear in the Fern Room is Abeyance by Haptic (Steven Hess, Joseph Clayton Mills, and Adam Sonderberg). Originally recorded in 2013, Abeyance has been reconfigured into a surround-sound installation that explores issues of spatial scale, temporal stasis, and the limits of awareness. Recordings of empty rooms—their near-silences magnified to reveal a hidden profusion of detail—are overlaid with one another and interwoven with the ambient sounds of the Fern Room to create a composition that, like the shifting light and atmosphere over the course of a day, unfolds almost imperceptibly in time. Subtle traces of electronics and distant piano melodies evoke indistinct presences and palpable absences.
What you'll hear in the Fern Room is Round the creep of the wave line by composers and musicians Boris Hauf and Keefe Jackson. For this collaboration, the composers considered the materials and elements in the Fern Room—soil, metal, glass and sunlight—in parallel to the materials and elements of the saxophones and clarinets they play—wood, metal, plastic and breath.
Since 2001, Experimental Sound Studio has been commissioning composers and artists to create sound pieces for the Fern Room through its unique Florasonic sound installation series. This year, we are revisiting some of the past projects with a nine-month retrospective. Each month, you can hear a different artist’s work enlivening the soundscape of the Fern Room.
What you'll hear in the Fern Room is Droopy, a composition by the Chicago duo Coppice (Noé Cuellar and Joseph Kramer). These musicians use acoustic and electronic instruments, with a focus on bellows instruments that are driven by airflow, such as accordion and pump organ. In Droopy, they concentrate on exhalation and the decay of breath to produce sounds that taper off in pitch and volume, recalling the drooping shapes of many of the plants in the Fern Room, and the heat and humidity that pervade it.
Orniphonia 2 is a four-channel sound installation featuring synthetic birdsong—each 'bird' being created by a simple electronic circuit. The fact that a circuit producing regular interacting patterns of change can mimic a living organism reflects the fact that all living things exhibit rhythmic behavior, and that all biological life interacts with its environment in a regular way.
Holzmusik is made from many layers of recordings of the clarinet, and each recording uses microphones placed very close to the instrument to capture its most subtle and delicate sounds. Through this “microscopic” approach to sound, the two-foot tube of the clarinet is magnified and re-imagined in the large space of the Fern Room.
Index Filicum borrows its name from two exhaustive catalogs of fern species published by botanists Thomas Moore and Carl Christensen during the Victorian Era, when a strange obsession with ferns—pteridomania—ran rampant. The work is derived from an inventory list of all of the species currently housed in the Lincoln Park Conservatory’s Fern Room. Peters conscripted four vocalists to improvise melodic lines over drones derived from the resonant frequencies of the space, using the Latin names of the pteridophytes present as lyrical content, while their common names are quietly whispered in the background.
Using the process of photosynthesis as a procedural analog for sound synthesis, Alex Inglizian has manipulated raw electrical energy into audio waveforms. For PTERIDOPHYTA SONGS, he has sculpted this material into a series of discrete sound pieces, each corresponding to a different species of fern.
by Ed Herrmann
February 13 - May 22, 2011
Opening Reception: Sunday, February 13, 3-5pm
9am-5pm Fern Room, Lincoln Park Conservatory 2391 N. Stockton Drive.
Curated by Lou Mallozzi for Experimental Sound Studio's Florasonic series, presented in partnership with the Chicago Park District.
Admission is FREE!
What you'll hear in the Fern Room is Requiem, a composition by Chicago artist Annie Feldmeier-Adams, with assistance from composer Steven Hess. The piece is an homage to a little known bit of the history of Lincoln Park: in the nineteenth century, this land was the city cemetery, but in subsequent years, many of the bodies were removed to new locations. This work was never completed, however, and the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 destroyed burial records and grave markers, so a number of bodies still lay under Lincoln Park to this day. Requiem is a tribute to those still buried. Its sparse and ephemeral sounds conjure a sense of absence, while its slow beat is like a pulse that continues unabated, reminding us that life—even in its most lush and fertile manifestations as we see in the Fern Room—is ultimately nourished by the death of organisms, and that each living thing passes on but nourishes future generations.
Half-Steps are Okay by Max Alexander
Jeff Kowalkowski: Florasonic closing performance of Tremendous Ferntuity
Tremendous Ferntuity combines electronically processed voice and instrument recordings into a calmly ambiguous, peaceful environment within the Fern Room, intended as a meditation on good luck in life.
When entering the Fern Room of the Lincoln Park Conservatory, you hear Electro-Acoustic Dubcology III, a sound composition by Chicago artist and designer Norman W. Long. The sources for the composition are location recordings made in the neighborhood around the Lincoln Park Conservatory. Combining his interest in acoustic ecology, the study of the sounds of environments, and his interest in 1970s Jamaican dub music, in which recorded songs were “recycled” and remixed into new versions, Long has created a sound composition from electronic transformations of the everyday sounds of the Lincoln Park neighborhood. His work invites us to pay new and closer attention to our environment and the ways in which we constantly reshape it.