For ‘The Place Between’, Law worked with local Milton Keynes residents to gather together over 20,000 examples of plant and other materials, which were then integrated with 200,000 of Law’s own curated items, particularly dried flowers. Collectively, these were all hand-sewn into long garlands by local Milton Keynes volunteers, later arranged into a vast hanging garden in Middleton Hall that visitors can freely wander around.
The experience is accompanied by a binaural piece for headphones by Jason Singh, a sound artist who similarly uses natural materials as a major input into his work. Singh specifically uses the biofeedback produced by natural materials to create rich, enveloping and immersive pieces of music that are endlessly surprising and unexpected. He has worked with artists like Shabaka Hutchings, Talvin Singh and Nitin Sawhney and collaborated with the National Trust, Kew Gardens and Tate Britain.
Pooleyville spoke with Singh about his interest in the hidden sounds of nature and the creation of the piece to accompany ‘The Place Between’.
The Place Between runs from 14 to 30 July in Middleton Hall, centre:mk.
I got involved with Milton Keynes International Festival and Rebecca’s installation through the festival producer, Rae Lee.
Rae had experienced my immersive sound installation ‘Extinction Songs’ at Kew Gardens and got in touch to see if I would be interested in working with Rebecca. As I usually only work with living plants and trees I thought this would be an exciting challenge to create sounds based on dried flowers. The soundscapes I have created for ‘The Place Between’ are experienced via headphones. They have been created using binaural processing technology which gives listeners an immersive sound and music experience.
I have had a love for listening all my life.
A few years ago I came across an artist called Mileece who created a hardware system to generate live music from plant biofeedback. I was completely blown away. When I started researching the technology I quickly realised that it was not going to be possible for me to create or build a similar system due to financial constraints. However, a few years later a number of companies started releasing instruments that could convert biofeedback from plants and trees into MIDI information which could be played via synthesisers. That made it possible for me to start on this journey of creating bio music in collaboration with plants and trees.
For ‘The Place Between’, I see myself more as a facilitator rather than a field recordist or composer.
The music is composed by the plants and trees. There are many factors like photosynthesis, water, attack from predators, changing light conditions, the plants being handled and son on that influence biofeedback and the sounds. I feel like I act as an intermediary between people and plant life. Yes, I do make certain decisions in terms of durations and journey the music takes the listener on, but the composing is done by the plants and trees I work with.
I have approached this project as a listener first and foremost.
I have heard the stories of a wide range of communities and organisations around Milton Keynes. I have also listened to the music of the plants and trees. Listening is what I hope people take away from this experience. Not only to the music but listening to themselves and their environment in order to help people realise that nature isn't something external to ourselves.
We are nature. As much as we need to be committed to the understanding and protection of our external environments we also need to respect and nurture our inner environments also.