Living Symphonies is a spatialized generative audio composition, broadcast on speakers in London’s Epping Forest as part of the Mayor of London’s National Park City Festival.
Hidden in a small part of the large east London forest are speakers placed up in trees or hidden in the undergrowth, each playing musical motifs representing different plants, animals and trees in the area. These motifs change based on the weather under the theory that the weather changes the behaviors of the represented flora and fauna. This is a “living symphony”, a musical composition and installation that is meant to grow in the same way as a forest ecosystem.
The area in which Living Symphonies plays is confined, so when we visited most of the audience were sitting under the trees listening not undertaking the sonic walk we had anticipated. But once we accepted the diminutive scale, we too took our seats. The experience was rather like being in a spatialized outdoor concert; a very pleasant one at that, not in part due to the July heatwave London was experiencing. We brought a picnic with us and spent perhaps two hours listening to the various tree and animal samples as they appeared in varied combinations, re-composing themselves through the dappled sunlight.
How responsive or living the piece really is was hard for us to tell, and perhaps it was the shade from the unusually hot UK sun, but the idea that the piece was being generated in real time captivated us and we found ourselves humming what we later found out were the string tree motives as we made our way out of the forest.
Living Symphonies is just on for a week, which is a shame as it was a lovely experience. I hope they will repeat it in more parks and forests soon.