is a performative audio installation, in which a new layer of sound — a sonic underwater world full of bubbling noises, creaky technology, sonar sounds, oddly vibrating chords, surprising fragments of text, and so on — is added to the existing landscape. These sounds will be inaudible to the naked ear, but visitors, with the help of special receivers amplifying this sound field, will be able to sonically navigate this invisible landscape, creating their own musical form by walking amidst the many musical elements which make up its sonic and geographical structure. Like a piece of music, Sunken Gardens will contain fragments of narrative and harmonic structure; unlike traditional music, visitors will play the piece non-linearly simply by walking through it.
The technology for Sunken Gardens — ‘induction loops’ or ‘hearing loops,’ as they are more popularly called — is decades old, but is regaining popularity because it’s so helpful for those with hearing loss. Most hearing aids (and the receivers visitors will use) are equipped with telecoils, which amplify the electromagnetic waves given off by the induction loops, and enable the listener to hear concerts, lectures and in this case, an invisible sunken garden.
Betsey Biggs is a composer and interdisciplinary artist whose work in music, sound, video, and installation aims to expose the beautiful in the everyday, to actively engage the audience, and to transform place into creative interface through psychogeographic practice. The New Yorker’s Alex Ross has described her work as “psychologically complex, exposing how we orient ourselves with our ears.” She received her Ph.D. in Music Composition at Princeton University, writing about public sound art, held a postdoctoral fellowship at Brown University, and is currently a Sawyer Fellow at Harvard University.
2014 Installation and Interview. Video by Caryn Waechter.