The music on this album is generated by the electrical frequencies emitted by plants and converted into audio signals by a specially designed synthesizer belonging to Marguerite Uhlmann-Bower. I have taken these sounds and processed them through Logic and a collection of software instruments to create the the pieces here.
I met Marguerite in upstate New York in the summer of 2016 and I was immediately fascinated by her research into Plant Intelligence, and in particular the idea that all around us, at every moment the trees, the flowers and foliage, lichens, moss and fungi are emitting signals, inaudible to the human ear perhaps, but pervasive in the earth and air nonetheless.
Marguerite very kindly sent me some audio clips she had recorded of a Night Blooming Cereus and I produced a piece that was given to representatives of the Natural Resource Defense Council at a talk about her work she gave to them in the fall.
In a Garden of Sounds is a more mature and varied collection of pieces. The recordings here were harvested from an assortment of plants and flowers including orchids, begonias, geraniums, mosses, a star succulent, a gold dust croton plant and a norfolk pine tree.
During the late eighties and most of the nineties, I lived in Japan, where I studied the koto, becoming sensei in 1997. Unsurprisingly therefore, the traditional music of Japan partially informs many of these pieces, as does the experience of being in formal Japanese gardens, and the concept of ma. Ma describes the importance of the space between things. Think of a Japanese rock garden, where you have a selection of rocks placed in an area of raked sand or gravel. The beauty and elegance of the overall impact of the arrangement depends just as much on the spaces between the rocks as it does on the position of the rocks themselves. This aesthetic has always held a strong appeal for me and I hope that the music captures a little of that sense.
“Contemplative, calming, restful, restorative…first words coming to mind in listening to Peter Coates’ lush and lovely new album In a Garden of Sounds. If a central tenet of Brian Eno’s ambient music has always been “to induce calm and a space to think,” such a thoughtful and calming space is instantly created and sustained in moving through the various pieces on this album, with its moments of textured arrangement, mystery and hints of magic, approaching, just beyond some faintly sensed horizon. Eno certainly comes to mind in listening to In a Garden of Sounds (his On Land, in particular), but also the disintegrating loops of William Basinski (Garden of Brokenness) and the delicate piano of Peter Garland (The Days Run Away). As with those, there is a sense in Coates’ In a Garden of Sounds of locations created within its delicacies of sound, seasonal tones passing cloud-like, insect-like, in their shifting temporal formations and dissipations, abstract terrains that still feel placed in time, as if remembered, gently haunted.”
– Clark Lunberry, University of North Florida