Archive for the ‘Design’ Category

Designing music for the landscape

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

Perhaps due to early days of playing in a Balinese gamelan, I’ve always longed to bring a great musical experience to the outdoors, something beyond plastic rock speakers, and blasting out the neighbors with your favorite song over and over.
Quite unexpectedly, on the Secret Gardens of the East Bay Tour, I found what I sought and was quite moved. Even with purple mulch and a lovely inspired garden designed by Lucia Howard , what truly captured my attention was a  new outdoor auditory experience– designed sound for the landscape. At this garden, the sound of Gregorian chants wafted through the landscape diverting attention away from the traffic of the busy corner. The music was mixed differently from the CD I owned, and while lovely,  it was not just the music that inspired, but rather the experience.  I found myself spinning in circles at an attempt to find (or follow?) the seemingly heavenly source,  as the sound emanated from all around, like a scent in the garden.
Hugh Livingston, of Livingston Sound is the master creator and artist behind this new technology and emphasizes “it’s not a sound system.”  Rather he creates the whole sound experience, from tempo and location, to the music itself all through a computer program that literally responds to the landscape!  How you ask?  Well, an iCam positioned to look up a tree can monitor branches moving with the wind and respond with a change in the sound to a multitude of hidden speakers.  Counting sensors at a garden gate send information to the computer to increase volume, tempo and other changes corresponding to the number of guests at a party. His artistry works in conjunction with the landscape designer so that the design, themes are well translated and united,  and speakers well hidden. It’s all quite fascinating, moving,  and something you just have to experience to fully understand. Thankfully Mr. Livingston is presenting a rare chance to experience his work “Scenes from a Lingering Garden” at a rooftop garden in Oakland on July 27, 2010.  Hopefully there will be many more to come.

How native plants can set you free

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

I have to admit to a bit of trepidation when a client says “I’d like to include natives in the garden”. Don’t get me wrong, I love native plants (I love all plants, truthfully).  But I worry, will they be happy in a tended garden?  These days of economic environmental, and world stability challenges give me enough consternation, so I don’t like to worry about my plant’s survival. As you may know, many CA natives, well-adapted to our dry summer Mediterranean climate, really don’t do well with summer watering or rich amended soils.  They become vulnerable to fungi and bacteria and die off when fussed over with well-intentions.
After a couple years, I revisited some plantings on an open hillside property.  As expected,  those that got too much irrigation, yellowed and died off, while a Fremontodendron californica ‘San Gabriel’ and Ceanothus ‘Kurt Zadnick’, out of range of the spray rotors and on on a slope with good drainage, burst forth with wonderful vitality and vibrant spring blossoms and foliage. Truly a beautiful sight to see!  And it dawned on me, these plants filled my spirit with the strength of their independence beyond human tending.  I had crossed a threshold as a designer, and contributed to a larger environment- vs. the artificial one of constant human hovering. Just give them what they like and leave them alone. They adapted wholly to the natural fluctuations of the environment and thrived. Now I like to plant natives, as I feel, maybe I too, could be set free.