Sound Worlds: The Sonification of the Japanese Garden

Friday, January 20, 2017, 8 p.m.
Kopleff Recital Hall, 15 Gilmer St. SE

“The purpose of art is to imitate nature in all her manner of operation”  – John Cage (from Silence, 1961)

John Cage is one of the most influential composers and musical thinkers of the 20th century.  In the 1950s, he was introduced to Buddhism and became interested in the aesthetic and artistic implications of Zen.  This led Cage to incorporate Zen thinking into his creative work, including musical compositions, visual art, and performance art.  During a tour of Japan, Cage visited the dry rock garden at the Buddhist temple Ryoan-Ji in Kyoto.  Renowned for its serenity, austerity, and simplicity of materials, the garden inspired Cage to write the unique microtonal musical work Ryoanji.

Michael D. Fowler

Dr. Michael D. Fowler

Berlin-based sound artist, performer, and researcher Dr. Michael Fowler has used Cage’s unconventional approach as a jumping off point for his own soundscape work.  In his book Sound Worlds of Japanese Gardens (Cultural and Media Studies, 2014), Fowler documented how he used his research of Japanese gardens to create large-scale sound installations and liver performances in venues throughout Japan, China, Australia, and Germany.

Bent Frequency and Fowler will collaborate on a new, Atlanta-specific concert based on one of the works discussed in Fowler’s book, Sesshutei as Spatial Model.  The concert will consist of a sonic foundation of field recordings collected in Japanese gardens in Yamaguchi overlaid with a live soundscape traditional Zen instruments (rin, singing bowls, and wood blocks) with Western instruments such as saxophone, viola, trombone, voice, piano, and percussion. Additional video components and live performers will create a unique immersive performance environment in which austerity and starkness of original space is respected but re-imagined for a concert hall.

In addition to Sesshutei as Spatial Model, four other musical works inspired by Japanese gardens will be performed: Saariaho’s Six Japanese Gardens, Frisova’s Meditation in the Japanese Garden, Hosokawa’s Vertical Time Study 2, and of course Cage’s Ryoanji.

Lecture by Dr. Michael Fowler: Architectures of Sound: interdisciplinary investigations into sound-space

Wednesday, January 18, 2017, 4 p.m.
College of Arts & Sciences, 25 Park Place, Room 223

Bent Frequency

Bent Frequency

Bent Frequency, hailed as “one of the brightest New Music ensembles on the scene today” by Gramophone magazine, is a ground-breaking chamber music ensemble whose vision is to redefine the traditional music experience, ushering it from strict formality to the fresh air of contemporary artistic expression and experimentation. Founded in 2003, Bent Frequency brings classical avant-garde and alternative music to life through adventurous programming, the promotion and commissioning of New Music, and a creative synthesis of music and current day media. Bent Frequency’s artistic vision is a result of the close collaboration among its Artistic Directors, Jan Berry Baker, Stuart Gerber, and Tania Maxwell Clements. For more information about Bent Frequency, visit

Concert and lecture FREE and open to the public!

GSU Faculty Project Leads: Jan Berry Baker, Assistant Professor of Saxophone and Stuart Gerber, Professor and Percussion Coordinator.