In more than 25 years of composing, musician Pete M. Wyer has been inspired by many sources including the poetry of Dylan Thomas and the forests in the Adirondacks. Most recently, the British composer found inspiration beneath the oaks of Descanso Gardens. On April 6, his immersive musical event, “The Sky Beneath Our Feet,” opens at Descanso. Played over speakers located through the Camellia Forest, visitors will experience this choral and instrumental composition as they walk through the garden. The music will be as seamless a part of the walk as the breeze that wafts through the oaks and will play throughout the summer until the end of August.
“The Sky Beneath Our Feet” is a work for nine choirs of eight voices each, played back via 72 independent audio speakers across an area of coast live oaks at Descanso. The score uses pitch, rhythm, tone, dynamic and space, and it is the composer’s direct response to the land and particularly the trees of Descanso. “The Sky Beneath Our Feet” will be Wyer’s largest installation to date.
Wyre describes how Descanso served as the muse for this composition. “When I visited in 2018, I had just (re)read ‘The Hidden Life of Trees’ by Peter Wohlleben,” he explains. “I was fascinated by the idea, expressed in the book, of the ‘wood wide web’ (discovered by Dr. Suzanne Simard) – the fact that the trees were communicating with each other beneath the ground across very large distances, and also through the air. So, I was immediately drawn to the live oaks, the ancient heritage trees of Descanso. I wanted to create something that suggested a deeper sense of the extraordinary interconnected world carrying on invisibly all around us.”
According to Wyre, “The work is never the same twice and no two people will have an identical experience. It will be different depending where you stand, what the weather is doing, how active the squirrels are and so forth. Each of the 72 speakers will have its own unique sound, but that sound is coordinated within a score so there will certainly be times when sounds come together.”
“We are really excited to have Pete composing this piece especially for Descanso, inspired by our historic oaks,” said Juliann Rooke, executive director, Descanso Gardens. “His immersive installations have thrilled visitors at gardens around the world, providing each guest with completely unique experiences. It’s fascinating to think that how you choose to walk through ‘The Sky Beneath Our Feet’ will provide you with your own unforgettable journey – providing a truly magical way to experience Descanso Gardens.”
About Pete Wyer
With an interest in storytelling and innovation, Pete Wyer has created scores for the London Symphony Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Juilliard, the orchestra of Welsh National Opera, The Crossing, BBC Television and the Royal Opera House as well as creating seven operas and music theatre works.
About Descanso Gardens
Founded as a public garden in 1953, Descanso Gardens is located at 1418 Descanso Drive, La Cañada Flintridge. Descanso Gardens is open daily (closed Christmas) from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $9 for adults; $6 for seniors and students with a school I.D.; $4 for children 5 to 12, and free for ages 4 and younger.
Descanso Gardens is a member-supported garden accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. Join Descanso Gardens and enjoy free admission and early entry year-round. Information: (818) 949-4200 or descansogardens.org.