In London’s Hyde Park can be found a sculptural water feature which flows with animated urgency and audible energy, its sounds and flow only hushed once its circular journey comes to rest within a peaceful basin at the fountain’s bottom. This recent Easter holiday I made way to visit Kathryn Gustafson’s 2004 landscape memorial, “Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain” to experience this landscape experience firsthand. I discovered a sculptural channel that resonated with me for its texture – both physical and aural.
Gustafson Porter + Bowman’s design expresses the concept of ‘Reaching out – letting in’, taken from the values and practices in the inclusive spirit of the Princess of Wales. All photos and video by Evan Mather.
545 pieces of Cornish granite – each shaped by the latest computer-controlled machinery and pieced together using traditional skills – were interlocked to create the cascade.
The fountain is not static. Water drawn from London’s water table bubbles, gurgles, falls, twists and turns, bends and breaks – creating distinctive sounds as it flows down the in separate eastward and westward flows. Alongside the simplicity of the project’s materials, the playful layout, and the fountain’s adjacent location near Serpentine Lake, what I will most remember from my visit to the Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain will be the dynamic nature of the water experience – one rewarding both looking and listening.
If you’re like me – and I figure most people in 2017 are – you listen to music while walking, running, ride sharing, or driving through the landscape. Music has the power to express complex emotional and spiritual concepts, teleporting the mind to a certain time and place, or even bring about an altered state.
Beyond its role in audio-visual bias in spatial perception, your earbuds and track 13 on Anderson .Paak’s Malibu album can heavily influence experience and emotions, or even spiritually connect to your surroundings.
This augmented experience becomes landscape around you.
When I think of the tie between music and landscape, or music and nature, I think of a few examples of music augmenting the landscape. An artist can teleport you to a certain setting. An artist can reify a natural landscape’s unpredictability or ominous scale. Music can explain concepts within nature that are too broad for our consumption. Music can mimic nature. An artist can capture and isolate parts of nature.
That is a lot to think about!
Before we get into it let’s get some definitions out of the way:
- Landscape n. – in a broad sense, the features of an area of land and its landforms; how these features interact with the broader nature and man-made features. This includes features both physical and cultural, natural and anthropological. Landscape can also be described as setting, a geographical location at a moment of time.
- Music n. – sounds combined to produce a beauty of form, harmony, and expression of emotion.
- Nature n. – the physical world and its organisms; features and products of the earth as opposed to humans and human creations.
I was first exposed to the seminal short film produced in 1977 by the iconic team of Charles and Ray Eames, Powers of Ten as a student of landscape architecture at Cal Poly Pomona. I remember the mind-blowing film even today, one that takes viewers on a visual journey that begins with an aerial shot of a man lounging in a park, gradually zooming upward at scales of 10 further and further away, until the perspective is taken to the edge of the universe. From there the viewer is zoomed back downward back into the hand of the man lounging the park, eventually transported inward into an individual atom within the man’s body.
As another winter storm system fast approaches to immerse Los Angeles in torrential rain to threaten to our state’s infrastructure and landscape to the limit (this one supposedly the biggest one yet), it’s easy to forget only a short while ago we were all praying for rain. Little did I know California has employed the aid of rainmakers utililizing alternative methods to manifest results and mitigate the drought.
The video above is my love letter to TV Guide. I credit my education of United States geography to a Fisher Price jigsaw puzzle and the pages of TV Guide during my childhood. In August 1979, our family vacation took us on the road from our home in Baton Rouge to visit cousins in Indiana and friends in Cleveland. At the time, the country was covered by about 90 different regional editions of the eponymous weekly magazine dedicated to television – which roughly corresponded to the largest television markets (as opposed to the states).
Each time we entered a new TV Guide region, my parents bought me a corresponding regional edition to add to my collection. These magazines and that jigsaw puzzle conceptualized my perception of the United States landscape and its geographies – including the two perceived Kentuckys that persist in my mind to this day. (more…)