Future Forest Space (2017) – site-specific generative sound installation / music composition for Klankenbos, Neerpelt, Belgium

Photo: Gerard Coenen

Future Forest Space (2017) is a site-specific, generative sound installation and musical composition, created for the Radio Forest pavilion in the Klankenbos public park and ‘sound forest’ in Neerpelt, Belgium. It is made of sounds recorded in the Klankenbos forest and transformed into an abstract environmental music, or musical environment. The idea has been to create a public artwork that corresponds to and elevates its architectural and environmental condition through sound, as well as to develop a new musical aesthetic through the use of environmental sounds and generative processes, and to contemplate the idea of future forests and our evolving relationship with the nature.

The composition is played through audio transducers installed inside the walls of the pavilion which turn the building into a large “invisible” speaker, as well as on a big metal sculpture outside which softly emits the sounds into the environment. The piece is self-organizing in nature and basically infinite, with the sonic events occurring and combining in random and probabilistic manner. It has also silent passages of variable lengths, allowing sounds from the environment to come into focus again and appear like part of the composition.

The music blends sonically and behaviourally with the existing sounds of the forest and appears almost like a natural part of the soundscape, yet introduces layers of newness, unfamiliarity and artificiality to it. The sounds and musical phrases have been selected and transformed also with the architecture and spatial perception of the pavilion in mind, the aim being to enhance visitors’ experience of the building. Another consideration has been the everyday function of the space (an information and meeting point, a refreshment area, and a workshop and educational facility): the music should be non-intrusive enough to accommodate and create a new aural space for all these activities.

The piece has been inspired by curator Hans-Ulrich Obrist’s comment about how art and architecture should provide ‘spaces of the future’ – physical and immaterial spaces that allow us to “experience” a possible, better world. It has also been informed by philosopher Timothy Morton’s idea of ‘dark ecology’ – about our paradoxical relationship to nature and our future coexistence within it.

The installation was made for the Pfeifen im Wald summer exhibition in July 2017, and it ran from 21st July to 23rd September 2017. A recording of the music continues to be available to visitors at Radio Forest as part of its permanent soundscape archive, accessible from a digital information stand inside the pavilion.

Future Forest Space on YouTube (this is a 6-minute version for the archival and other playback purposes – what’s different here is the lack of the real-time sounds of the surrounding nature, the architecture of the space, and the indeterminate, self-organizing character of the original piece with longer silences between the elements).

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