Posts tagged landscape

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.

When I think about a song that can teleport the listener to a discreet place and time, I think of Ice Cube’s “It Was a Good Day”. The song vividly describes a series of scenes as Ice Cube through the urban landscape of South Central Los Angeles. The scenes and experiences he describes have direct references to the city, teleporting listeners to South Central on the alleged date of January 20, 1992.

The song also teleports me to that warm August night in 1996 when my sister first played the song for me. I remember listening to it at a low volume, so my mother didn’t hear us listening to “grown-up” music.

Bjork is one of the greatest examples of an artist who seeks and finds inspiration in nature, one who utilizes landscape as a sonic experience.

I’m specifically thinking about Bjork’s album, Biophillia. Inspired by the hypothesis linking humans with nature, Bjork explores the nexus where nature, technology and human experience all intersect. She used nature as an inspiration for musical structure, theme, and metaphor for human experience. Bjork taps into our intrinsic and primal connection to what is beyond human invention.

In the song Crystalline, Bjork uses the growth and facet structure of a crystal in designing her changing time signature and concept for the song. This creates an uneasy beauty that only feels complete because of its tie to nature.

More Connections to Nature
Many songs sample nature, including Blackbird and the Storm, who use samples of bird songs and calls to add to the theme of the bird wing metaphor, while adding to its serene atmosphere.

In 1970, Beaver and Krause released an album abstracting nature themes into a hybrid of sample, tape loop, and synthesizer electronic music. This album samples the broader landscape, things both natural and man-made.

Using Nature as metaphor
Ok, so this is a stretch. Not because it isn’t accurate, but because the music isn’t a metaphor using nature. Rather the following is a sonic adaptation or literary metaphor using nature/ animals. (I’m really including this because it is one of my favorite concept albums).

Based loosely on George Orwell’s Animal Farm, Pink Floyd’s Animals album describes the capitalist conservatism in the 1970’s England.

This is a very brief exploration of concepts and songs. Think about songs you like. How do they make you feel? Is there a connection between any of your favorite songs and the nearby landscape?

Hringvegur_Contact Sheet

In addition to chronicling my recent circumnavigation of the Icelandic landscape via the production of a feature film, we also took plenty of still images – digital and analog. At each stop for camera adjustment, file backup, or leg-stretch, we whipped out our trusty Polaroid OneStep 600 Express instant film camera – because is there really a better format to capture the subtlety of this jaw-droppingly dynamic landscape of geysers, glaciers, and gas stations?

One issue: where to get film? I got puzzled looks from the Walgreens downstairs from the office; apparently sold out. By chance, I overheard a conversation on the Red Line – two patrons talking about a place on the internets called “the Amazon”. I rushed home and fired up my Hayes Smartmodem 300, logged onto CompuServe, and eureka – my dream of shooting Polaroids in Iceland would come true – and at only $2.81 a pop!

Upon our return these archival quality prints were scanned and cleaned up a bit in Photoshop – a painstaking process documented in the accompanying video below.

Once you have absorbed these prints in all their high resolution glory, you will probably feel as if you have also experienced the dreamlike Icelandic landscape itself.


Groundwater and the Drought: How the West Is Miscounting Water Supplies: Years into a historic drought, Western states like California are wrestling with an inconvenient truth: there’s likely even less water than people think. This animation illustrates why the more water is extracted from underground, the harder it becomes to restore the region’s rivers and reservoirs…

Expandable “Origami” Pot Grows Along With Plants to Cut Waste: “GROWTH, a new design concept by London-based Studio Ayaskan, offers a dynamic take on the standard flower pot—one which not only saves gardening time and effort, but also promotes sustainability and cuts down on unnecessary waste.”

7 Takeaways from the So-Cal Lawn + Landscaping Dilemma: “Some landscape designers argue that there are consequences for the ecosystem to getting rid of lawn. So what can and should Angelenos do to cut back on lawns responsibly? The advice can be conflicting and overwhelming…”

Federal Buildings In SoCal Caught Wasting Water Amid Drought: An undercover news investigation records government workers breaking the City of L.A.’s Emergency Water Conservation Plan, watering government facilities for over two hours…

Los Angeles Sanitation Composting Workshops & Compost Bin Sales: This Saturday at the Griffith Park Composting Education Facility the Department Of Public Works and LA Sanitation is offering a composting workshop, alongside heavily discounted compost bins for LA city residents.

Located next to the Santa Monica Municipal Airport, the Santa Monica Airport Park includes two soccer fields, an off-leash dog park, concession facilities, playground, passive open space, picnic areas, and permeable pavement parking.

Located next to the Santa Monica Municipal Airport, the Santa Monica Airport Park includes two soccer fields, an off-leash dog park, concession facilities, playground, passive open space, picnic areas, and permeable pavement parking.

Newly constructed landscapes need time to mature. With some exceptions, landscape projects typically have budgets that do not allow for the installation of many, if any, large-sized trees or specimen plants and, hence, younger nursery stock is used. Landscape architects are challenged to design with consideration of a project’s aesthetic and functional value immediately upon construction and the long term consequences of time and maintenance practices.

After an appropriate time, we often return to our completed projects to see for ourselves how they have held up. As landscape architects we’re pleased when a design achieves its intended goals, but equally pleased when we discover the landscape re-invented, functioning in a somewhat different way to better serve the needs of the people who use it.

Santa Monica’s Airport Park opened in 2008

Santa Monica’s Airport Park opened in 2008 and its dog park has become a popular socializing area for animals and their owners.

I am a regular user of a public park which our firm designed. The Santa Monica Airport Park opened in 2008, and at that time it was the first new park the city had built in nearly three decades, drawing the attention of several divergent special interest groups. From my perch at Airport Park’s dog park, I have observed the park’s maturity beyond its plant palette – which, by the way, has had some modifications. As a community space the park has held up to the original design intent and much more, becoming a popular destination for soccer matches, family celebrations, community group gatherings, picnics, children’s play and, of course, dog play.

AHBE_SantaMonica-airport park soccer_smap_kn_23_sm
Among the park’s unexpected surprises for me are the establishment of new friendships which would not have occurred without the creation of this public space. The park also has a wider reach than we originally anticipated. For example, owners of specific dog breeds hold monthly meet-ups at the park which are announced through social media, a technology emerging since the park’s inception.

On a recent visit to the park I heard a group of people complaining about the lack of parking on weekends and how far they had to walk to get to the park. I smiled. This landscape has become a social routine for people, one worth an extra effort.