In 2001, Experimental Sound Studio began its Florasonic series in partnership with the Chicago Parks District’s Lincoln Park Conservatory. The project asks artists to create multi-channel sound installations for the Fern Room at the Conservatory. Since its inception, the series has showcased the work of 39 artists to an estimated audience of 500-1000 people daily, and is the only program of its kind in the US.
The current exhibition, percussionist and composer Tim Daisy’s The Glass House, is a subtle work that contemplates the architecture of the Conservatory itself. The piece, composed for vibraphone, cymbals, radio, and vintage turntables, is structured as four independent sections of different duration that play simultaneously from the four speakers in the Fern Room, guaranteeing a unique experience for each visitor. In conjunction with the exhibition, Daisy released this fixed version of The Glass House on his own Relay Recordings imprint for streaming and download.
DM: How did you approach creating a sound installation for such a unique and public space as the Fern Room at Lincoln Park Conservatory? What was your process in creating the work?
TD: The first thing I did was head over to the Fern Room to "soak up the physical space," so to speak. I sat quietly and observed the environment, letting my mind go where it wanted to. I did this on three separate occasions, each time for around 30 minutes or so.
I started noticing that I became drawn more to the structure of the building itself than to the ferns housed inside (as lovely as they are). My attention focused on the iron and glass architecture of the building, the metal ribs which support the structure, the various shapes of the glass windows, and the sunlight that was spread around the room in various patterns.
After my third visit, I decided that my composition was going to reflect the architecture of the space, and that I would explore the hidden sounds within the structure of the Conservatory.
Knowing that I would have four speakers to work with, each on its own channel, I wrote the composition in four sections, each a different length, and had them play continuously in the space. This created a collage of sounds that mixed and remixed in surprising and unpredictable ways.
Each visitor to the Fern Room will hear a unique version of the composition, and no two versions are alike.
DM: What do you hope visitors to The Glass House take away from the experience?
TD: Everyone's experience of The Glass House installation will be different of course, but my hope is that it offers folks a bit of time to sit and reflect on the important role that all conservatories play in protecting botanical diversity. I also encourage folks to visit the installation more than once so as to experience a different version of the composition.
DM: How did you go about putting together the fixed iteration of the piece featured here? How does it differ in intention and/or structure from the version visitors experience at the Conservatory?
TD: I strongly encourage folks to experience this sound installation in the Fern room itself as the space it was designed for "finishes" the work so to speak. The sounds heard in the environment are as much a part of the music as the material that I recorded.
That being said, I wanted to offer the piece as a download for folks who might not make it to Chicago in time to visit the conservatory. This fixed iteration of the work, which is around 51 minutes in length, was created with the help of the great sound engineer Alex Inglizian, who also helped me realize various aspects of the work as it is played in the physical space. Without Alex's help, The Glass House would not be what it is today!
DM: What’s next for Tim Daisy?
TD: In September, I'm going to travel to Warsaw, Poland and will create a work for two percussionists at an art installation called the Keret House. The Keret house is an insert located between two existing buildings, representing different historical periods in Warsaw's history. The house is 92 centimeters wide at it's narrowest point, and 152 centimeters wide at its widest.
For two or three days, I will work in the space with my friend Macio Moretti—a great musician and composer from Warsaw—to create a composition for two percussionists based on the physical limitations of the room. This music will then get recorded and we'll perform a version of it at a venue in Warsaw.
The Glass House is open daily from 9-5pm in the Fern Room of Lincoln Park Conservatory (2391 N Stockton Drive) until July 10th. Learn more at bit.ly/ess_florasonic. The fixed version of the piece is available for download from Daisy’s Relay Recordings for the modest price of $1.01 (or more). The next Florasonic commission—Jenny Kendler and Brian Kirkbride’s A Confounding Mimicry—opens Sunday, July 24 with a reception from 3-5pm.
"Singletrack" is CAR's Artist Story for Chicago performers in which songwriters, bands, playwrights, actors and writers discuss the creation of a recorded work alongside audio or video clips of the performance. To submit your song for consideration, please email our researchers.