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Of Earth and Sun

A sound installation in the Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL) by Abby Aresty

Of Earth And Sun

Click below to hear a sample of the sound art that is being created for the CSL.

Buildings, too, are children of earth and sun.
—Frank Lloyd Wright

Imagine walking through a symphony composed with the sounds of nature. It evolves throughout the day and with the seasons, is transformed by the elements, and is powered by the sun.

Imagine you are in a building that blurs the distinctions between inside and out. It works in harmony with its environment, and harnesses the elements to sustain it.

This building is itself an instrument. The sounds of nature pulse through its very surfaces. Just as the body of a guitar amplifies and colors the tone of its strings, the building's different materials color and illuminate the natural sounds of Pittsburgh.

Of Earth and Sun, a sound art installation for the Center for Sustainable Landscapes, is driven by and integrated into the very systems that sustain the CSL, bringing to life the poetry of sustainable design.

Project Statement

by Abby Aresty

Inspired by the Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL), Of Earth and Sun is a new permanent sound art installation commissioned by the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens that celebrates Pittsburgh’s unique soundscape and illuminates the poetry of sustainable design. The project lies at the intersection of the arts, the environment and cutting-edge technology: it will be created with sounds collected from throughout Pittsburgh, and will be driven by and integrated into the very systems that sustain the CSL. Just as this building collaborates with its environment to facilitate a greater connection to the outdoors, Of Earth and Sun engages the local community with their urban environment, through sound; a new initiative, Listen Up, Pittsburgh, will be launched in conjunction with this work’s development to engage the Pittsburgh community with their environment. It will involve residents in identifying some of the many sounds that will comprise the installation.

In the past century, advances in technology have both drastically altered the sounds of our environment, and fundamentally changed how we listen to—and ultimately interact with—our surroundings. Today we can easily tune out the world around us while tuning in to our own personal worlds on portable listening devices. Similarly, our built environments often isolate us from the world that surrounds us. But whether inside or out, when we neglect to listen, we lose a basic component of our connection to the beauty of the world around us. Of Earth and Sun and Listen Up, Pittsburgh respond to these issues by engaging residents with the juxtaposition of noise and natural sounds in their urban environment and introducing the community to the study of soundscape—the sounds of an immersive environment, considered as a whole—through the field of acoustic ecology.

Of Earth and Sun is a dynamic sound installation that evolves throughout the day and with the seasons; it is transformed by the elements, and is powered by the sun. Upon entering the CSL, visitors will be immersed in a symphony of sound created with ambient recordings collected from throughout the region. The building itself will function like an instrument: just as the body of a guitar amplifies and colors the tone of its strings, this building’s different materials will color and illuminate the natural sounds of Pittsburgh. To highlight the collaborative nature of sustainable design, Of Earth and Sun seeks out symbiotic sonic relationships—the rhythm of rain articulating a metal awning, or wind whistling across a rooftop—that blur the distinction between manmade and natural sound.

Like a community mural, Of Earth and Sun will engage local residents in the creative process from early on through the workshops of the Listen Up, Pittsburgh, initiative. The creative process and the ultimate creation will therefore be inherently intertwined: the artwork will take on significantly more meaning to residents who are engaged in the creative process from the beginning. At the same time, the collective goal of creating a permanent sound installation will generate excitement around the Listen Up, Pittsburgh initiative.