iForest’s New Immersive Sound Installation Captures the Wonder of Upstate New York
Can nature and humans co-exist in harmony? iForest, the new immersive sound installion at Upstate New York’s Wild Center, explores that very question. Open until Columbus Day, the exhibit takes visitors along a 1000-foot path that loops through forested terrain; at various turns, speakers emanate choral music, a Mohawk-language piece entitled “I Walk Towards Myself,” that was composed by Brit Pete M. Wyer (interviewed on camera, below).
The whole adventure can be likened to a guided meditation, designed to heighten the senses and bring people closer to nature. Taking cues from a Mohawk Thanksgiving ceremony, Wyer’s “I Walk Towards Myself” expresses gratitude to elements of nature: streams and creeks; puddles and ponds; soot and wood. Anyone ambling through the iForest, bathed by the rising and falling of soft choral notes, can feel a mystical aura. “I spent time in the woodland when it was quiet, imagining the voices moving around invisibly,” says Wyer on where he drew his inspiration.
The whole adventure can be likened to a guided meditation, designed to heighten the senses and bring people closer to nature.
Nothing about the composition is an accident. The choice of singing “encourages the visitor to focus closely on the human voices.” By default, however, the listener also absorbs the sounds of nature such as the sway of branches or leaves rustling underfoot. The indigenous lyrics only add to the mystery. “The fact that this piece is not in English helps us gain an emotional connection,” says Wyer. “Rather than straining to hear the words in order to understand what’s being sung.”
Mounting an exhibition of this complexity and scale was no small feat. Wyer recorded “I Walk Towards Myself” with a 72-member choir, each with an individual microphone. He then created a mixes for each of the 24 speakers to be installed in trees scattered along the path. Each of the recordings featured a variety of singers reciting different segments of the song. Once the speaker system was in place, another round of audio mixing was done to create a balanced symphony of voices, so that no one speaker or section drowned out another.
On any given day, nobody can have a duplicate experience, which is what makes the iForest so personalized and unique. The iForest wander plays out as a surround-sound concert composed on the fly, with special effects. The time of day, the seasons, and the weather play key roles. Birds could chirp on early morning strolls. A walk after the rain would mean silence instead of the crunch of twigs. A breeze could carry the voice of the chorus into the far distance.
Ultimately, the journey turns toward introspection. “The hope of ‘I Walk Towards Myself’ is not only to encourage deeper connection with nature but to help see ourselves differently, as a living, breathing part of nature,” says Wyer. In fact, he intentionally integrated human voices “so that visitors would experience ‘human’ as a part of nature, rather than feel they were simply external observers of it.”
The Wild Center is located at 45 Museum Drive in Tupper Lake, New York.
For more information or to plan a trip, visit the museum’s website.