FROM VOCAL MEMNON TO THE STEREOPHONIC GARDEN:
A SHORT HISTORY OF SOUND AND TECHNOLOGY
IN LANDSCAPE DESIGN
A PAPER PREPARED FOR CELA 1995
JOSEPH DILLON FORD
The following monograph was accepted for presentation at CELA 1995 in Ames, Iowa. At that time, I was a visiting assistant professor at the School of Architecture, Florida International University, Miami. Because FIU did not cover scholarly travel expenses for visiting and temporary faculty and I had already exhausted my personal funds on research abroad, I had to decline the opportunity to present at CELA 1995. Publication was thus delayed until January 2002.
The material for this research represents but one topic in a book of nearly a thousand pages titled, Steps to Parnassus: A Musical History of the Euramerican Soundscape, which I am currently revising with a view towards publication. Those interested in this fascinating and relatively new area of research are invited to contact me with their comments and questions at the e-mail address which appears below.
Music, Myth, and Acoustical Magic in the Ancient Landscape
For the Greeks, music was mousikh tecnhthe technique of the Muses (Harvard Dictionary of Music, 2d ed., s.v. "music"). This same tecnh is the root of the term technology and is etymologically closely akin to the word architecture. Indeed, music was one of the first technologies employed in landscape architecture. Amphion built the walls of Thebes by charming the stones into place with the tones of his lyre. Similarly, Orpheus' music stopped the flowing of rivers, moved mountains, and becalmed savage beasts. The third-century Treatise on Rivers and Mountains refers to the stone argrophylax, which Lydians placed beneath thresholds because it resonated with a trumpet-like sound upon the approach of thieves (Schafer 1994, 24-25). Greek theorists held that the entire cosmos vibrated with the same harmonies audible in music, and their thought, undergirded by Pythagorean mathematics and speculative philosophy, was transmitted by Boethius and other medieval scholars to the Renaissance and later periods, during which it would play a dominant role in actual architectural practice.
Magical properties were also attributed to musical instruments in the ancient Near East. The Israelites toppled the walls of Jericho by their sustained trumpet blasts and shouts. The Egyptian sistrum, a ceremonial rattle sacred to Hathor, goddess of trees and skies, appeared in papyri and wall paintings depicting gardens and crops, presumably to ensure plant safety and fertility. Stylized sistrum column capitals in the new year court and hypostyle halls of Hathor's temple at Dendara were a visual pun linking the instrument's auspicious sounds to the rustle of aquatic plants (Baines and Málek, 227). Under a wooden canopy at the center of the south wall was a colossal gilded sistrum guarded by lion heads, whose pluvial roars anticipated Gothic gargoyles by more than a millenium (Ibid., 112-13).
It was, however, through Apollo, the Greek god of the sun and of music, and his nine sister goddesses, the Muses, born near the spring Pieria on the slopes of Olympus, that the union of landscape and music found its most enduring expression. Perhaps their music was originally no more than the enchanting interplay of sunbeamsthe strings of Apollo's lyreand sonorous mountain streams, a phenomenon likely to have inspired thanksgiving when winter snows melted into spring. Mythology supports this view: The springs Castalia, on Mt. Parnassus; Aganippe, arising near Mt. Helicon and flowing into Parnassus; and Hippocrene, originating on Helicon where the hoof of Pegasus struck the ground, were all sacred to Apollo and the Muses. Significant, too, is the medieval belief that the word music ultimately derived from the Egyptian moys 'water,' a notion which perpetuated the archetypal association between the two (Harvard Dictionary of Music, 2d ed., s.v. "music").
The Greek theatre at Syracuse, Italy (digital painting after original photo by Dillon Ford).
In the Greek Theater at Syracuse, the sparkling music of fresh water and salt sea, the songs of ancient playwrights, and the sophisticated acoustical technology of a fifth-century Classical amphitheater have felicitously combined to create one of the world's most compelling soundscapes. The theater is crowned by a grotto on the site of an ancient plumbing system whose cascading waters, together with underground streams, fill the air with an enchanting murmur. A semicircular water channel between the orchestra and tiered seats was designed both for functional utility and aesthetic beauty. The overall shape of the amphitheater itself was suggested by the concentric patterns formed when a stone is thrown into quiet water (Vitruvius 1960, 138-39). Vitruvius strongly advocated the use of bronze or clay sounding vases placed in special compartments among theater seatsthe ancient equivalent of Helmholtz resonatorsto augment the clarity of singing voices (Vitruvius 1960, 9-10, 145; Schafer, 221).
Water and technology conspired to impart the power of speech to lifeless stone near ancient Thebes. C. Perry's A View of the Levant, published in 1743, thus describes the mysterious Memnon Colossi (1375 B.C.): "The Northernmost, said to be the statue of Memnon, is cover'd with a great number of Greek and Latin Inscriptions; being so many testimonies of Persons who pretend to have heard it utter a Sound at Sun-rise" (Baines and Málek, 95). The voice of Vocal Memnon was evidently produced by a concealed water organ in which "solar heat was used to siphon water from one closed tank into another and so produce compressed air for sounding . . . pipes" (The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments, s.v. "water organ"). Water organs were described centuries later by Ctesibius (second century B.C.), Philo of Byzantium (second century B.C.), and Hero of Alexandria (first century A.D.).
A variety of hydraulic musical automata, some with singing or moving birds, probably delighted Romans fortunate enough to acquire them for their gardens, nymphaeums, or musaeums. Even before Hero's Pneumatica, Vitruvius (first century B.C.) had devoted an entire chapter in The Ten Books on Architecture to the water organ, which he considered "carefully and exquisitely contrived in all respects" (Vitruvius 1960, 299-300). Water-spewing animal and human heads adorned streetside fountains and private gardens in Pompeii, their aqueous vocalizations transforming simple technology into sophisticated landscape art. The resonant sound of rainwater filling an impluvium must have similarly captured the Roman imagination.
Villa gardens were venues for both musical entertainment and the practice of cult rituals. Worshippers of Cybele hung cymbals, castanets, and syrinxes in sacred trees, perhaps for the mysterious sounds produced when the windor the goddess herselfstirred among the branches (Jashemski, 97, 133-34).
Dulcet Medieval Delights
Medieval soundscapes were no less intriguing. Constantine IX Monomachus (r. 1042-55) was so attached to the audible pleasures of his gardens that unless "without delay cicadas were chirruping on his spontaneously created trees and nightingales singing about his grove, the emperor was very upset (The Oxford Companion to Gardens, s.v. "Byzantium"). According to al-Maqquari, the Islamic gardens of Andalusia were "filled with scented flowers, singing birds, and water-wheels with rumorous sound" (Ibid., s.v. "medieval garden").
Medieval fountains, whether Christian or Islamic, followed the ancient example of channeling water through the mouths of sculpted men and beasts to suggest live vocalizations, as the gentle growl of the recumbent wolves on Siena's famous Gaia Fountain. The Piazza del Campo as a whole is a virtual fountain: On rainy days the concave plaza, which inescapably resembles a huge seashell, becomes a basin in which the sights and sounds of rain and runoff, punctuated by jovial claps of thunder, take on an unexpected poetic significance. Unfortunately, this grand illusion is diminished by a metal grille covering the scallop shell drain inlet, which conspicuously traps water-borne debris.
Medieval fountain, Monreale, Italy (original photo by Dillon Ford).
The cloister fountain at Monreale, with its startling hybridization of Arab, Norman, and Byzantine elements, suggests the extent to which the emergence of a truly multicultural architectural style might have stimulated corresponding technological innovations, but too few medieval fountains survive in working order to allow for a satisfactory study of their auditory characterisics and the technologies used to produce them. Arab influence was especially pronounced at Hesdin, Pas-de-Calais, France, which boasted automata, including a talking owl, based on water-engine technology described in the Book of Mechanical Devices (1206) by Ibn al Razzaz al Jazarí of Diyarbakir (The Oxford Companion to Gardens, s.v. "pleasance").
The earliest medieval accounts of automatic singing birds date from the ninth century, when Leo the Philosopher created two such devices with artificial trees for Theophilus Ikonomachus. Around 1250 Konrad von Würzburg described an artificial tree with automated birds that could sing and flap their wings (The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments, s.v. "bird instruments").
Bells, Chimes, and Telling Time
Bells and chimes were among the most significant components of the Medieval soundscape and proved to be more useful than clock dials before general literacy. The swinging of bells in Western European church towers produced a characteristic surging sound. Eastern church bells were fastened in a stationary manner and struck by pulling a clapper, thus minimizing the sideward thrust exerted on towers and allowing them to outnumber and outweigh their western counterparts (The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments, s.v. "bell").
The great bell towers of the late Middle Ages, such as those at the Pisa and Florence cathedrals, were often freestanding buildings. The Torre del Mangia, on the other hand, is an integral part of Siena's Palazzo Pubblico. It was provided with its campanone or "big bell" in 1348 and a mechanical clock by 1360. Such campaniles set the urban landscape and its inhabitants into sympathetic vibration, imparting a rhythmic pulse to daily life, defining the acoustic boundaries of communities, and inspiring civic pride. Bells signaled masses, deaths, alarms, and nightly curfews, and regional styles of bell ringing created unique soundscapes which contributed strongly to the sense of place.
Chimes are tuned stationary sets of bells whose range is smaller than that of a carillon. By the twelfth century bells were actuated by large wooden keys, leading to early keyboard-played chimes and carillons in church towers (The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments, s.v. "chimes"). Tower clocks capable of producing actual music were developed by the fifteenth century, when a rotating cylinder with pegs was designed to move clappers, thus permitting the virtuosic performance of greater numbers of bells and the development of distinctive regional repertoires (Ibid.).
Antiquity Resounding: The Renaissance
During the Renaissance, water organs took on an almost mystical significance and were housed in elaborate cases in gardens, grottoes, and palace conservatories. Many were provided with fanciful automatahuman, animal or mythological figures actuated by movements attached to a musical cylinder. Some water organs were intentionally concealed from view, and as automated figures appeared to play music, the tones of the hidden instruments sounded synchronously. Among the most famous instruments were those at the Villa d'Este, Pratolino, and the papal gardens at the Quirinale in Rome (The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments, s.v. "water organ"). Agostino Ramelli's The Diverse and Ingenious Machines (1588), inspired by Hero's Pneumatica, included designs for water organs and fountains with musical automata.
The aquatic soundscape of the Villa d'Este at Tivoli (1575) was virtually unsurpassed in the western world. Its fountains, including the famous Water Organ; hydraulic automata; and giochi d'acqua never failed to astonish visitors, even during periods of neglect when only desiccated ruins remained to conjure up some impression of the artistic and technological triumph achieved by designer Pirro Ligorio and engineer Orazio Olivieri. Michel de Montaigne's Journal de voyage en Italie (1580-81) contains one of the best contemporary accounts of the Tiburtine villa's aural ambiance:
The music of the [water] organ, which is real music and a natural organ, though always playing the same thing, is effected by means of the water, which falls with great violence into a round arched cave and agitates the air that is in there and forces it, in order to get out, to go through the pipes of the organ and supply it with wind. Another stream of water, driving a wheel with certain teeth on it, causes the organ keyboard to be struck in a certain order; so you hear an imitation of the sound of trumpets. In another place you hear the song of birds, which are little bronze flutes that you see at regals; they give a sound like those little earthenware pots full of water that little children blow into by the spout, this by an artifice like that of the organ; and then by other springs they set in motion an owl, which, appearing at the top of the rock, makes this harmony cease instantly, for the birds are frightened by his presence; and then he leaves the place to them again (Montaigne, 963).
Detail of Water Organ, Villa d'Este, Italy (photo by Dillon Ford).
The Apollonian and Orphic iconography of the Water Organ, plus the fact that the instrument itself was sited at one of the highest points in the garden whence its waters issued in a sparkling cascade, recalls the previously described Greek archetype. The villa's elaborate fountains were fed by the Aniene River, raised to a hilltop so that its waters could be distributed throughout the grounds by the force of gravity. Marked contrasts in the level of sound as one travels from one fountain to the next seem to parallel the alternately soft and loud passages in music which renaissance composers first introduced into their scores near the end of the sixteenth century. As for the Fountain of the Owl, its central niche featured around twenty types of painted bronze birds which sang and variously moved about while perched in an olive tree on an artificial mount (Lazzaro, 229).
Pratolino (1581), near Florence, was also famous for its automata, which "made music and noises of every kind" (The Oxford Companion to Gardens, s.v. "Pratolino"). Here Evelyn would take delight in Pan, "the Water making a melodious sound through his pipe," and a Mount Parnassus where the Muses played on hydraulic organs (Evelyn 1955, vol. 2, 418-19). Behind the house, the rising land was shaped into an amphitheater, with a colossus of the Appenine exerting pressure on the head of a stone monster whose roars were symbolized by gushing water.
At the Villa Lante (1573), Montaigne discovered "four pretty little lakes" around a pyramid, at the center of each of which was "a stone boat, with musketeers who shoot and hurl water against the pyramid, and a trumpeter in each, who also shoots water" (The Oxford Companion to Gardens, s.v. "Lante, Villa"). Behind the theater on the uppermost terrace was The Fountain of the Deluge, a large grotto with resonant cascade whose adjacent pavilions were adorned with frescoes of the Muses. Giochi d'acqua concealed beneath the pavilion roofs and on the central axis of a lower terrace elicited shouts, screams, and laughter from surprised visitors.
In Alberto Ginastera's 1967 opera Bomarzo, the notorious stone monsters at the Villa Orsini are endowed with musical speech. At the actual villa, Hell's Mouth, which bears the inscription "Ogni pensiero vola" ("Every thought flies"), entices the visitor to produce an echo by shouting these strangely relevant words inside its cavernous interior.
From the fifteenth century, the great plazas, courtyards, streets, gardens, and waterways of Europe were venues for some of the most important alfresco events in history, including state weddings, coronations, birthdays, receptions, and the like. These were designed by festaiuoli, individuals whose broad mastery of the arts and sciences enabled them to combine technology, architecture, landscape, music, literature, drama, dance, sport, and pyrotechnics into multifarious forms of pageantry and spectacle. Leonardo da Vinci himself served as a festaiuolo at the court of Milan, where he invented a revolving stage constructed of wood, plaster, and cloth (1498 or c. 1506), surrounded by a moat on which boats sailed carrying live musicians. The stage, which could be closed so that it resembled a mountain, featured remote-control lighting and artificial flames (Blumenthal 1973, 20-21).
The Soniferous Seventeenth Century
The Villa Aldobrandini (1598-1603) was particularly memorable for its fantastic fountains and musical automata. John Evelyn, on a visit to Frascati in May of 1645, marveled at the extraordinary sights and sounds of an artificial grotto, where he found
curious rocks, hydraulic organs & all sorts of singing birds moving, & chirping by force of the water. . . . In one of these Theaters of Water, is an Atlas spouting up the streame to an incredible height, & another monster which makes a terrible roaring with an horn; but above all the representation of a storme is most naturall, with such fury of raine, wind and Thunder as one would imagine ones selfe in some extreame Tempest (Evelyn 1955, vol. 2, 392-93).
The gardens of Hellbrun at Salzburg (1613-15) offered numerous auditory delights, including an "Orpheus grotto" with automated singing birds (The Oxford Companion to Gardens, s.v. "Hellbrun"). The soundscape of the Hortus Palatinus at Heidelberg (from 1615) featured many unique hydraulic automata and musical grottoes designed by Salomon de Caus (c. 1576-1626). Among them were water-actuated figures playing musical instruments and water organs that performed music Caus himself evidently composed. In its day this astounding sound garden was hailed as the eighth wonder of the world (The Oxford Companion to Gardens, s.v. "Hortus Palatinus").
Between 1609 and 1612, Anne of Denmark, and Henry, Prince of Wales, had Caus redesign their gardens at Somerset House, Greenwich Palace, and Richmond Palace. These projects set the fashion for similar aristocratic residences, and as Caus was an hydraulics expert extremely fond of allegorical fountains, grottoes, and automata, the garden landscapes in England were enriched by diverse new aquatic and mechanical sounds (The Oxford Companion to Gardens, s.v. "England"). In his book Les Raisons des forces mouvantes (1615), Caus included a treatise on water organs which covers their tuning, registration, and mechanics, and engravings showing the places where they were used (The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments, s.v. "water organ").
At Enstone, Oxfordshire, is the site of a former grotto and hermitage garden designed by the eccentric Thomas Bushell in the 1620s and 1630s. Bushell shared Caus' delight in hydraulic automata, and enriched his garden sanctum with multiple sound effects, including "Thunder and Lightening, Rain, Hail-showers, drums beating . . . [and] the Dead arising" (The Oxford Companion to Gardens, s.v. "Enstone").
At Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Thomas Francini (1571-1651) designed hydraulic music automata for the grottoes of the former royal residence, about which some idea is conveyed by Abraham Bosse's engravings of "The Grotto of Orpheus" and "The Grotto of the Young Lady Playing Organs" (The Oxford Companion to Gardens, s.v. "Francine"). Descartes invoked these in his Treatise on Man (1629) to explain the mechanical neural activity of the human brain (Descartes 1972, iv, 3-4, 21-22, 113). When Evelyn visited Saint Germain, he was impressed by "Orpheus, with his musique, & the Animals which daunce after his harpe," "Neptune sounding with his Trumpet," and "birds chirping and the many other devices" (Evelyn 1955, vol. 2, 111).
At the Garden of the Thuilleres, Evelyn noted an "artificial Echo, redoubling the words so distinctly, and . . . never without some faire Nymph singing to its gratefull returnes" (Ibid., 106). Standing at one of the foci under a tree or little cabinet of hedges, the voice seemed "to descend from the Clowds; and at another, as if it were under grownd" (Ibid.).
By far the most stunning soundscape events of the seventeenth century took place at Versailles under the reign of Louis XIV. The Sun King, who closely identified himself with Apollo, was especially fond of music and dance and had his court musicians perform in parades, at outdoor fêtes, at the hunt, on the battlefield, and even on the Grand Canal (The New Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, s.v. "Paris"; Forsyth, 104). The Pool of Apollo, with its triton trumpeters proclaiming the skyward ascent of the god of light and music, is but one detail in an entire program which exalted Louis' divine persona with uncompromising consistency.
Jean Le Pautre's engraving of a performance of Lully's Alceste at the Marble Court, Versailles, 1676. Musicians' enclosures are highlighted.
Operas and musical performances were often staged in the landscape, either through adapting existing structures or building new ones. Lully's Alceste (1674), for example, premiered in the candle-lit Marble Court: The orchestra was split into two halves and concealed in specially designed enclosures near the front of the stage area, which arrangement afforded the royal family a direct view of the singers and a kind of stereophonic listening pleasure. Although Versailles did not have a permanent opera house before 1770, the seventeenth-century Salle du bal was an enchanted place where courtiers could dance on marble floors to the accompaniment of the king's orchestra, refreshed by the ebullient sounds of cooling cascades and water jets. On either side of the elaborate stepped cascade, amphitheater-style seating was provided.
Music continued to play an important role in the soundscapes of the low countries. At the Brussels Court, on the site of the existing Place Royale, Evelyn described on 8 October 1641 "a most sweete and delicious Garden" with "artificial musique" and "a faire aviary" (Evelyn 1955, vol. 2, 71-72). When he visited the Hague, Evelyn was impressed by "the Hoff . . . with the adjoyning Gardens, which were full of ornament, close-Walkes, Statues, Marbles, Grotts, Fountaines, and artificiall Musique" (Evelyn 1955, vol. 2, 41). At Buitenhof, the visible music of Pythagorean-Albertian harmonic ratios was complemented by birdsong emanating from an aviary in the villa's loggia (The Oxford Companion to Gardens, s.v. "Buitenhof").
About the bells of St. Nicholas in Amsterdam c. 21 to 24 August 1641, Evelyn would write that "the confusion was so greate, that it was impossible for the Musitian to heare any thing himselfe, or any that stoode neere him; Yet to those, who were at a distance, and especialy in the streetes, the harmony, and the time were most exact and agreable (Evelyn 1955, vol. 2, 48-49). In seventeenth-century Russia, chimes had so grown in size and number of bells that they surpassed many such western European instruments. Russian chimes, with bells weighing up to forty tons, were not tuned to scales, but provided instead a rich wash of tone color over the landscape (The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments, s.v. "Chimes").
The Eighteenth Century: Parnassus for the Masses
Chatsworth, in Derbyshire, England, enjoyed a unique soundscape vividly described by Daniel Defoe in 1724: "[O]ut of the mouths of beasts, pipes, urns, etc., a whole river descends the slope of a hill a quarter of a mile in length, over steps, with a terrible noise, and broken appearance (The Oxford Companion to Gardens, s.v. "Chatsworth"). In the romantic garden of the Duc de Chartres at Parc Monceau, Paris (1773), described as "a simple fantasy bringing together all times and places," there was a grotto-triclinium, music from whose upper chamber wafted down to dining guests (The Oxford Companion to Gardens, s.v. "Parc Monceau"; "Grotto").
Vauxhall, one of London's first public pleasure gardens, was a simple fantasy bringing together all times, places, and people: "The thickly wooded 'wildernesses' were an attraction in themselves, adding to the romance and mystery of the place, and providing a home for the larks and nightingales, those 'feathered minstrels' whose song apparently matched in sweetness that of the professional musicians in the orchestra; the illusion given to visitors was that they had been transported to the depths of some romantic Arcadian countryside, without all the inherent risks and dangers that a real journey to such a place would entail" (The Oxford Companion to Gardens, s.v. "pleasure garden").
Thomas Rowlandson's depiction of Vauxhall Gardens
From the1660s until Vauxhall closed in 1859, music was one of the gardens' greatest amenities, particularly after 1732, when it inaugurated a regular series of ridotto al fresco entertainments. A large open-air pavilion, closed at the back and sides, housed the musicians, and in 1737 an organ was installed. The organ was eminently suitable for outdoor performances due to its stable intonation, penetrating tone, and ability to project sounds over a considerable distance. In 1758 the earlier structure was supplanted by an elaborate "Moorish-Gothick" temple. Thunderous pyrotechnical displays were featured at the gardens from around 1800 (Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 5th ed., s.v. "Vauxhall Gardens"; The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, s.v. "London").
The Nineteenth Century: Angelic Voices, Deafening Choices
Music figured prominently in numerous projects of Frederick Law Olmsted, including New York's Central Park, Boston's Franklin Park, and the Colombian Exposition of 1893. Judging from contemporary accounts, the latter was distinguished by one of the most remarkable soundscapes in American history:
As the President [Coolidge] was concluding the final sentence of his address his eyes wandered to the table that was close at his left hand. Upon this was the button, the pressure upon which was to start the machinery and make the opening of the Exposition an accomplished fact. . . . As the last words fell from the President's lips, he pressed his finger upon the button. . . .
This was the signal for a demonstration difficult of imagination, and infinitely more so of description. At one and the same instant the audience burst into a thundering shout, the orchestra pealeth forth the strains of the Hallelejah Chorus, the wheels of the great Ellis engine in Machinery Hall commenced to revolve, the electric fountains in the lagoon threw their torrents towards the sky, a flood of water gushed from the McMonnies Fountain and rolled back again into the basin, the thunder of artillery came from the vessels in the lake, the chimes in Manufacturers' Hall and on the German Building rang out a merry peal, and overhead the flags at the tops of the poles in front of the platform fell apart and revealed two gilded models of the ships in which Columbus first sailed to American shores. . . .
It was a wonderful scene of transformation, and amid it all cannon continued to thunder and the crowd to cheer. It was nearly ten minutes before the demonstration subsided. Then the band played "America" and the exercises were at end (Northrop, 110-11).
A. Westerling, "Columbian Exposition," 1892 (from Northrop, 109)
Such high-profile events notwithstanding, it would appear that outdoor acoustical design suffered major setbacks by the end of the nineteenth century. Several factors account for this development:
1) The industrialization and expansion of European and American cities brought about increasing environmental noise and a drastic reduction in the green space available for public gardens;
2) most of the major palaces and villas of Europe had already been built by the end of the eighteenth century, and changing political, social, and economic realities militated against their maintenance;
3) and the greatly increasing complexity and length of instrumental and vocal music favored the development of specialized indoor environments such as concert halls and opera houses where acoustics, lighting, stage machinery, and audience comfort could be more easily controlled. A corresponding increase in instrumental music depicting landscapes during the same period, however, suggests a desire to compensate for the increasing isolation from and deterioration of the audible landscape.
Perhaps the most extreme example of this romantic escape into an imaginary indoor soundscape is the famous Venus Grotto at Schloss Linderhof in Bavaria, an artificial cave where Ludwig II indulged his craving for Wagnerian opera under cast-iron stalactites electrically illuminated in various colors as the rushing sound of a waterfall and an immense painted scene from Tannhaüser conjured up images of past Teutonic glory. Acoustics in this highly reverberant interior are predictably problematic.
In Evenings with the Orchestra, Berlioz envisioned a twenty-fourth-century city called Euphonia in Germany's Harz Mountains populated by twelve thousand musicians living on streets named after their instrument or voice type. Instead of campaniles, a single huge steam-operated organ perched atop a tower overlooking the city would signal working hours, meals, meetings, and rehearsals. Performances of monumental musical scores requiring as many as ten thousand players would take place in a theater with a seating capacity of twenty thousand "somewhat similar to the amphitheaters of Greek and Roman antiquity, but built to provide superior acoustic conditions." The whole building and its musical ensemble would comprise a "huge intelligent instrument." (Berlioz 1969, 283-86). Nothing on a smaller scale could have sufficed for a composer who, in his own day, longed for an orchestra of 825 instrumentalists and vocalists which could produce effects like "a hurricane in the tropics," the "explosive roar of a volcano," or "the mysterious rustle of primeval forests" (Dorian, 245).
Aeolian Harps and Calliopes
The aeolian harp was the romantic outdoor instrument par excellence, and its ethereal effects inspired an outpouring of poetic sentiment by some of the most distinguished literary figures of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In Coleridge's poem "The Eolian Harp" (1796), the author dares to speculate, not unlike the ancient Greeks, that the entire living world is an assemblage of musical instruments created and performed by some deity: "And what if all of animated nature / Be but organic Harps diversely fram'd, / That tremble into thought, as o'er them sweeps / Plastic and vast, one intellectual breeze, / At once the Soul of each, and God of all?"
Technically, the aeolian harp is a box zither distinguished by the fact that its strings are played by the action of the wind. The precise manner in which sound is produced remains a mystery, but theory suggests that tones result from eddies creating vortices behind individual strings. Aeolian harps typically have from four to twelve brass wire or catgut strings of equal length but varying thickness which stretch over one or two wooden bridges mounted on a wooden box and attach to tuning pegs or hitch-pins. Often there is some means of regulating the contact of wind with strings (The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments, s.v. "aeolian harp").
Aeolian music was a common feature in European gardens, grottos, and summer-houses, and aeolian harps were even introduced into uninhabited castles in Baden-Baden (1853). In 1783 Abbot Gattoni of Milan stretched strings between the spires of two churches, producing an armonica meteorologica whose tones indicated when the weather was about to change (Ibid.).
The calliope, named after the muse of epic poetry, was invented by the American Joshua C. Stoddard, who is said to have been inspired by the steam whistles of locomotives. His first instrument (1855), consisting of a steam boiler, a set of valves, and fifteen graded steam whistles played from a pinned cylinder, reportedly could be heard for a range of five miles, and so offended the ears of the Worcester City Council that Stoddard was forbidden to perform it within city limits. Arthur S. Denny, head of the American Steam Music Company, introduced a low-pressure keyboard version of Stoddard's instrument in the Crystal Palace. Denny's more powerful outdoor models supposedly could be heard for a distance of twelve miles. Calliopes like that featured in the 1951 film Showboat were a popular source of water music on the Mississippi and attracted crowds at circuses and fairs (The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments, s.v. "calliope").
The Twentieth Century: Emancipation of Noise
The twentieth century has witnessed the emancipation of noise, both as a creative resource and environmental pollutant. The Italian futurists were among the first to champion the vast array of mechanical sounds which had come about as a consequence of the Industrial Revolution, and by the late 1940s tape recording made possible a new level of sophistication and finesse in the manipulation of noise. In the 1960s creative artists and engineers began to produce a variety of innovative fountains, sculptures, and installations exploiting the rich potential of sound, and more recent developments in electronic and computer-assisted sound synthesis, including digital sampling and MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface), have expanded aural resources to a hitherto unprecedented degree.
Outdoor Musical Instruments and Clocks
One of the most ingratiating twentieth-century soundscapes owes its existence to Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. (b. 1870). Together with a team of designers that included campanile expert Milton B. Medary, Olmsted created the Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales on a 130-acre site which encompasses the highest point in peninsular Florida. Dedicated by President Coolidge in 1929, the "Singing Tower" marks the passing hours with carillon concerts emanating from a marble and coquina tower measuring fifty-one feet wide at the base and thirty-one feet wide at the top. Faience grilles atop the seven-level structure conceal 57 chromatically tuned cast bronze bells, ranging in weight from 17 to 22,300 pounds, which remain stationary when the carilloneur causes them to sound by striking large wooden keys with fists or feet. Clappers are connected by wires and levers to the keyboard in a sound-controlled room below the bells in which speakers allow the player to monitor his performance at a comfortable volume. The relative force applied to the keys produces a full range of dynamic effects. Optimal listening distance lies within a radius of approximately one hundred to two hundred yards (The American Foundation, 1981, [7-8, 12-13, 15, 18, 20, 22, 24-26]).
Balboa Park in San Diego boasts what is billed as the "World's Largest Outdoor Musical Instrument," a mammoth Spreckels pipe organ which has served as the voice of that city since 1915. The instrument, housed in an elaborate pavilion with adjacent seating for some 2,400 concert-goers, has 71 ranks, with 4,416 individual pipes whose length varies from less than .5 inches to over 32 feet. Percussive effects are also available to the performer, who sits at a four-manual keyboard equipped with full pedalboard in the pavilion. Air required to operate the instrument comes from a twenty-horsepower electric blower, and music produced can be heard under favorable weather conditions at a distance of over two miles ([Spreckels Organ Society], [1-2]).
A short distance from the main entrance of San Francisco's Exploratorium lies one of the museum's most extraordinary exhibits, the Wave Organ. This water-activated instrument enables visitors to hear the voice of San Francisco Bay in an attractively paved setting which provides seating and a splendid view of the city's skyline. The exhibit is the work of artist-in-residence Peter Richards and George Gonzales ([The Exploratorium], ).
The most familiar outdoor instruments are simple chimes of glass, metal, and other materials hung in gardens, patios, and other breezy settings. Most of these are of little aesthetic consequence, but others, such as the richly patinated bells of architect Paolo Soleri, are skillfully crafted musical works of art which delight the eye as well as the ear.
Floral cuckoo clocks such as that in Hesketh Park in Southport, England, belong mostly to a bygone era. Such charming chronometers were sometimes ornamented with dwarf succulents. The mechanical clock in the tower of the Town Hall at Munich (1908), is admired for its detailed human figures, some with musical instruments, that turn about, dance, and nod when 11:00 A.M. is struck.
One of the premier American sound sculptors was the eccentric Icabod Angus MacKenzie (c. 1880-1969), who produced an astounding variety of works actuated by wind, water, gravity, and even fire. Bell and tubular chimes, concentric slide pipes, piano wire, whistle holes, and beaters were all incorpopated in his wind-powered sculptures (The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments, s.v. "MacKenzie, I[cabod] A[ngus]; Cope 1984, 318-23).
Harry Bertoia (1915-1978) created "sonambient" sound sculptures composed of square or rectangular clusters of long, flexile metal rods mounted vertically to a flat base, or swinging pairs of perpendicularly suspended horizontal bars that chime when set in motion by hand, wind, or sympathetic vibration. Another type consists of circular and rectangular gongs, the largest of which, erected over the sculptor's grave, is performed by a padded sledgehammer (The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments, s.v. "Bertoia, Harry"; "sonambient").
Around 1970 New Zealander Annea Lockwood (b. 1939) began to change upright pianos into bizarre "Transplants" by variously preparing, burning, and even drowning them. Exposed to outdoor conditions, the instruments underwent dramatic changes perceptible on multiple sensory levels (Ibid., s.v. "Lockwood, Annea").
Many of the works of Max Eastley (b. 1944), British sound sculptor and performance artist, are powered by natural energy sources, especially wind and water. Among them is a ground harp, whose beaters are driven by the wind against a steel sheet; a marine organ performed by the changing tides; tree harps; aeolian flutes with air slots and closed ends; and a hydrophone (1975), whose strings, stretched from a bridge to a weight at the bottom of a river, produce new tones and effects with changes in the speed and direction of the current (Ibid., "Eastley, Max").
Other creators of outdoor water sculptures include Luis Frangella, whose "Rain Music II" exploits the possibility of precipitation on resonant surfaces in conjunction with antenna-like beaters, and John Latham, whose "Big Breather" consists of enormous tide-inflated bellows on top of a tower some seven meters in height which cause a large reed to be sounded (Ibid., s.v. "sound sculpture").
One of the brightest lights among the younger generation of sound sculptors is Doug Hollis (b. 1948), whose outdoor installations include giant aeolian instruments, singing bridges, and a wind gate for the main entrance of San Francisco's Candlestick Park in collaboration with landscape architect George Hargreaves and architect Mark Mack (Ibid, s.v. "Hollis, Douglas"; Boles, 6 (C)). Hollis's "Sound Garden," near the shores of Lake Washington on the grounds of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, consists of steel towers with wind-actuated organ pipes (Swift and Wilkinson, 98-99.).
Other creators of aeolian instruments are John Paul Rhinehart and Stanley Marsh III, whose "Chromatic Tree Harp" consisted of five sapling trees (one uprooted) and twenty-two rubber strings; David Wheeler, inventor of a "Wind Machine" (1974) whose eight constituent units (including bells, chimes, a drum, a monochord, and a two-reed horn) were sequentially activated by windmill power; and Mario Bertoncini, whose Vele (1974) featured an ensemble of aeolian harps up to seven meters in height, all curiously shaped and tuned (The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments, s.v. "sound sculpture").
The Music of Modern Fountains
Lawrence Halprin's Lovejoy Plaza in Portland, Oregon (1961), is especially notable for its sonorous water features inspired by the rivers and falls of the High Sierras. Halprin's spatio-temporal "scores," analogous to music notation, present the possibility of orchestrating the landscape just as composers and conductors determine instrumental combinations and seating plans.
Bernard Baschet (b. 1917) and François Baschet (b. 1920) developed a number of structures sonores used as sculptural elements both indoors and out-of-doors. Among their best-known works are the interactive stainless steel HemisFair 68 Fountain at San Antonio and an assortment of innovative campaniles, clocks, and windmills. In their musical fountains, gongs, and chimes sound as water is emptied from a system of pivoted containers (Ibid., s.v. "Baschet"; "structures sonores").
Richard Huws's Tilting Fountain (1968) at the back of the Liverpool City offices offers the audiovisual entertainment of a series of buckets being filled and tilted in an irregular sequence (The Oxford Companion to Gardens, s.v. "water"). The Quiet Water Pool in Philip Johnson's Water Garden (1966-1974) at Fort Worth is like a pianissimo passage in a great symphonic score, contrasting vividly with the distinctly audible sonic events of the Active Water Pool, the Cascade Pool, and the outdoor stage area.
Fortissimo "surround-sound" cascades distinguish this famous fountain at the Fort Worth Water Gardens
Sir Geoffrey Alan Jellicoe demonstrated mastery of the water music concept in his musical cascade for Shute House in Wiltshire, England, in 1970.
The automated creatures which speak, vocalize, dance, gesticulate or spray water at Walt Disney World and American theme parks recall renaissance gardens where giochi d'acqua and fanciful automata similarly conspired to delight the mind and senses. Indeed, the difference between popular entertainment and high art has become increasingly blurred. What, for example, does one make of the Rite of Spring Fountain at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, in which Niki de Saint-Phalle's brazen sculptural creations, animated by Jean Tinguely's maniacal technology, wantonly celebrate Stravinsky's scandalous orchestral score?
The serious and the playful likewise conspire in the work of Joan Brigham, who explored the possibilities of tapping into the underground steam systems that once provided central heating for older American cities (Krauss 1988 , 36). With Christopher Janney, Brigham planned "the first permanent winter participatory steam/sound fountain" for Boston's City Hall Plaza. Their design calls for a Macintosh computer controlling sixteen jets of steam and an eight-speaker sound system to interact with pedestrians. Two-foot-square glass bricks set at predetermined intervals around the perimeter of the fountain house both sensors and neon lights which glow as steam and sounds are released. A riddle etched on a bronze plaque is set into the wall of the Plaza, and anybody solving it who triggers the eight brick lights in the correct sequence causes the whole fountain to "go wild" (Ibid.).
The introduction of water technologies from non-Western cultures is increasingly common. If traditional devices like the shishi odoshi and suikinkutsu of Japan have already found their way into Western gardens, then the tang koa of Viet Nam, the nakpéa of Vanuatu, and the aeolian instruments of Guyana will likely follow.
Electronic Installations, Sculptures, and Equipment
Texan Max Neuhaus (b. 1939) created an installation at Times Square (1977) in which a large loudspeaker concealed below a ventilation grille on a traffic island emits a rich low sound affected by temperature and wind, (The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments, s.v. "Neuhaus, Max"). At Kassel's Documenta 6 exhibition (1977), Neuhaus placed loudspeakers emitting subtle sounds high up in a large tree in a wooded park (Ibid.).
Composer Jon Hassell has produced numerous interesting large-scale outdoor sculptures, including the minimalist soundscapes in the "Landmusic Series" (1969-72). One of the latter requires a "compact battery-powered speaker, microphone, [and] amplifier combinations to be planted in trees to produce subtle sound amplifications of 'wind, leaves, birds, and squirrels who come near. . . .'" (Cope, 323).
Similarly, the late John Cage once planned to amplify a park for children in Ivrea, Italy:
There is a marvelous hill in the center of the city that is high and has a beautiful view of the Alps and is isolated enough from the traffic sounds so that you hear the sounds of the plants. . . . I was spoiled by the marvelous situation in Ivrea where the silencewhen you weren't playing the plantswas very audible and beautiful; you could hear it as if you were in a concert hall. In other words, I wanted the silence of the mountain to be heard by the children after they had heard the sounds that they themselves had made by playing the plants. . . . Every now and then the plants were going to become unplayable, and the children would be obliged to hear the silence (Ibid., 317).
David Dunn (b. 1953) has planned a large-scale utopian project in which a stationary cybernetic sound sculpture will be satellite-uplinked to analogous structures in other locations. These systems would serve as sonic mirrors to process electromagnetic data from a given environment. The sculpture could serve as an autonomous entity interacting within an autonomous environmental intelligence. Dunn perceives this "interactive reflection back into the environment" as a means of rediscovering natural magic, invoking a primal relationship to nature by uniting music and leading-edge technology (Lampert, 102).
New York engineer-sculptor Wen-Ying Tsai has created an astonishing number of kinetic and cybernetic sound sculptures, many of which are eminently suitable for indoor landscape projects. Some of these are interactive, including a small fountain which can be activated simply by clapping hands (Fodor, 51-55).
In "Steamshuffle" by Christopher Janney and Joan Brigham, produced in Philadelphia in 1987, photocell reflectors were interfaced with a computer, enabling pedestrians to collaborate in a multimedia work featuring music, jets of steam, stroboscopic effects, and projections of poetry (Krauss 1988, 36).
Bioacoustician Bernie Krause designed an "eight-channel, holophonic-type sound sculpture, done with octagonal rows of speakers" for the St. Louis Zoo's new education center (Oppenheimer and Karlberg 1989, 69). Those experiencing the sculpture might well imagine that whales are navigating through their heads, and even the relative perching distances of different bird species are accurately simulated.
At Cornell a Library of Natural Sounds on 65,000 recordings has been accumulated over a period of over sixty yearsthe largest collection of its kind in the world. Computer technology in a new bioacoustics laboratory is now used to analyze and synthesize wildlife sounds in an effort to explain the behavioral mysteries of language, sound, and music. Scientists have introduced recordings of specific birds species at appropriate sites to encourage nesting and egg-laying (Raymond, 7-8 (A), 10 (A)).
In the Parc de la Villette at Paris, nestled in a bamboo-filled valley, is Le Cylindre sonore, which demonstrates the importance of sound in spatial design. An integral component in the park's promenade, the top of the double cylinder is at grade, and one must descend into its acoustical space to access and leave the bamboo garden. Behind each of the eight perforated precast concrete panels comprising the innermost cylinder are three speakers mounted at varying heights (Leitner 1994, 28-31).
In Geneva, the claustrophobic tunnels which interrupt the scenic Swiss landscape along N 1a Highway became the focal point of the Geneva By-Pass project, which set out to "physically improve and aestheticize the motorist's transit through three subterranean passages by using sound and light to emphasize the kinesthetic experience of traveling" (Ibid., 36). Drawing upon the emerging technology of active noise control, the project was to allow externally produced tones to interact with unaccompanied vocal music similar to that of the Franco-Belgian renaissance composer Josquin Desprez. A multiple CD player would be connected to numerous high-output audio amplifiers which powered a series of weather-proofed loudspeakers suspended at fifty-meter intervals from the tunnel ceilings. The volume of the recorded music would be automatically adjusted to the loudness of the traffic noise. Unfortunately, political developments resulted in premature termination of the project in 1994 (Ibid., 39-40).
Recent development of the audiosphere in France could enable landscape designers to study the problems of urban noise pollution. Through additive and subtractive audio simulations of a variety of street sounds, this technology provides a basis for making informed decisions about design proposals which could impact the urban landscape. The aesthetic and functional efficacy of acoustic crosswalks which signal pedestrians through buzzes, pips, and ticks, such as those which have already been tried in New Zealand and Europe, might be efficiently tested by such devices (Schafer 1993, 41; Schafer 1994, 240-41).
Comparatively few contemporary landscape architects normally concern themselves with the aural quality of a site beyond addressing the technical issues of noise abatement or acoustics (Schafer 1994, 222). This neglect probably stems from a general visual bias resulting at least in part from the gradual deterioration of the sonic environment since the Industrial Revolution, a development which in spite of decades of legal countermeasures has increasingly made the aesthetic use of outdoor sound seem like an exercise in futility. Many professionals would probably agree, however, that sound should no longer be dismissed as an accidental, incidental, optional or otherwise inconsequential aspect of the landscape. The recent proliferation of cassette tapes and compact discs featuring natural environmental sounds suggests that although quality soundscapes, whether natural or man-made, have become increasingly rare or difficult of access, they are still perceived as valuable by a sizable percentage of American consumers.
The creation of acoustically pleasant and appropriate landscapes represents a significant opportunity for those who recognize that a design which delights the eye but neglects the ear is likely to be as well-received as a handsomely costumed actor who mumbles, butchers or forgets his lines. An excerpt from Alexander Pope's An Essay on Criticism (part II, line 62) seems especially appropriate in this connection: "Tis not enough no harshness gives offence; / The sound must seem an echo to the sense." Those landscape architects who fully appreciate the historical role of sound as a design element essential to the creation of a strong sense of place and who accept the considerable technical, aesthetic, environmental, and legal challenges required to renew the soundscape, will have the distinct satisfaction of extending their art into new, ever-richer realms of poetic experience.
Project for Astronauts Memorial (1987), Kennedy Space Center, Florida. Total soundscape design features site-specific music (score not shown) with kinetic sculptural choreography. Joseph Dillon Ford with Leonardo Alvarez, Marta Canaves, & Javier Delgado.
The American Foundation. 1981. Bok Tower Gardens. Lake Wales, Florida.
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