Six Soundscapes for Gardens
Sound emerges from silence, and in the Sound Garden, silence is the central “sonic” element that flirts with subtle noises in each of the six theme gardens. This concept emerged from the awareness that we live rather unconsciously with the barrage of sound that fills our every day. The kaleidoscopically minimal soundscapes visitors experience in the Sound Garden were resized to fit the space constraints of a CD, in various approaches that make use of such elemental restrictions in a constructive way.
For the opener “Zasso,” sixty some names of weeds were sung and recorded one by one. While in the Sound Garden these form single entities that kick in every now and then, the album version required a tighter arrangement that resulted in a surprisingly harmonic combination of children’s chorus and saxophone.
“Elizabeth” is a composition originally made for the two multichannel speakers (of the same name) designed specially for the Sound Garden. A humming female voice from the speakers in the center “interacts” with bird sounds audible from seven small speakers arranged in a circle around it. Like “Zasso,” what was once a loose arrangement of sounds and silence appears here in the compact format of a “song.”
“Mono no Hana” and “Hana ga Saitara” are reworks of pieces originally included in Shimizu’s unreleased recording Kiren and the Mariah album Utakata no Hibi (1983). The lyrics on “Hana ga Saitara” are interpreted this time by Miyako Koda from Dip In The Pool, “Momo no Hana” comes across with the same growing tension as Ravel’s “Bolero” — albeit a rustic Japanese edition.
The album further offers ventures into rhythmic, sine wave-based electronica, a soprano rendition of flower names in Italian (“Industria Botanica”), Shimizu’s trademark sonic collage (“Destiny No. 1”), and an original baroque-style composition for sampled celesta (“Yuki”).
The Japan Times, 2004
While most ambient music evokes a place or an ambience figuratively, (Brian Eno’s “Music for Airports” was, after all, not composed for a departure lounge), Yasuaki Shimizu’s latest musical challenge was to create music that worked on both a literal and metaphoric level. His current release, “Seventh Garden,” was originally composed as the “soundscape” for the massive Pacific Flora 2004 exhibition currently running in Shizuoka.
Playing in eight-hour cycles through a specially designed, flower-shaped speaker system, “Seventh Garden” accompanies visitors as they wander through the flora (and in some of the more avant-garde installments, robots and glass-blown figures) that make up the six consecutive gardens of the central exhibit, the “Dream Garden Factory.”
In lesser hands, this could easily have become a cliche of singing birds and falling water, or worse, another dreary, droning electronica piece. But Shimizu’s saxophone renditions of Bach’s Cello Suites have shown him to be a master of balancing silence, sound and echo, a skill well used on “Seventh Garden.”
The record begins with a children’s chorus reciting the names of different kinds of weeds. Spare and spacious, it achieves the solemnity of a Gregorian chant. Other tracks on the album venture into more electronic realms, complete with sine waves and unidentifiable throbs and bleeps, but like Shimizu’s Bach, the music always gently swings. Both augmenting the scenery of the garden while also becoming a sonic sculpture in itself, it is truly the “seventh garden” of the exhibition, what Shimizu has described as a “garden of the mind.”
— Suzannah Tartan