Originally commissioned by Crick Crack Club at the OXO Tower, London, and later by People United at the Copse Woodland in Ramsgate, the Whispering Forest is a sonic experience entirely built on live interaction - visitors whisper, talk, sing or make noise in to trees. The trees listen, capturing these sounds and disperse them randomly into a vast woodland/forest, adding the words/sounds to an ever evolving soundscape solely built by its visitors.
The Whispering Forest was the first of my works to explore a self generative method of building 'aesthetic'. I'm sure its conception came as a result of my obsession with building scenarios rather than finite works - enabling an organic growth of sound. The very nature of the piece is that there really is no way of knowing what you'll be left with. There's this wonderful moment when I come to switch off the sound system at the end of the day, I get completely lost in listening to how the work has been interacted with; the words and sounds left behind are profound, regardless of what they are. Beyond the sonic intrigue, the Whispering Forest also acts as the perfect platform for participative led work - asking what it is that drives individuals to part with their sound world, what it is to interact purely through sound, and perhaps most importantly, why?
I've always had a strong drive in building creative environments, enabling collaboration and ultimately sharing with individuals. In the Whispering Forest there is a distinct component that enables visitors to claim some form of ownership, that creates a connection. This is of course, that the work is undefined until the point of interaction; the experience can't exist without the input of others. I'm always incredibly moved by this notion.
The work consists of 'listening trees' - these trees have microphones hidden either in their branches or within bespoke wooden cylinders, dependent on the kind of tree and on the site. At its first commission in the OXO Tower Complex, around 70 real pine trees were installed within a large darkened gallery space, whilst for the People United commission, the piece was installed within a real woodland called The Copse. Visitors were encouraged to explore and sonically interact with the space - the 'listening trees' are illuminated or marked to help visitors identify which trees can be interacted with. The captured sound is then processed by bespoke software which manipulates and randomly spatialises the sound within the forest.
2011: Bargehouse, OXO Tower London. Commissioned by Crick Crack Club
2015: The Copse Woodland, Newington, Ramsgate. Commissioned by People United