The Sky Beneath Our Feet is a 72 speaker installation inspired by the California live oaks of Descanso Gardens and by the lives of trees generally.
It takes us on a journey through the life of the trees in ten movements:
i. Artahe. Voices call across the woodland, an introduction to evoke a world where trees are in constant communication.
ii. Dagaz A celebration of the growing light of dawn.
iii. Sowulo A celebratory song of the earth at sunrise.
iv. Thurisaz (Thor) The coming of rain and storms v. Euri Ondoren. After rain comes sunshine.
vi. Kukoistaa. Flowering, blossom, love. vii. Beorc. Budding. New life, birth.
viii. Mannaz. How do humans sound to trees?
ix. It is Enough. When trees are about to die they release their nutrients back into the soil. A song about acceptance.
x. The Sky Beneath Our Feet. A short ‘hymn of thanks’ to the earth for the extraordinary natural life going on all around us.
Pete says: “In creating The Sky Beneath our Feet, I was especially interested in how the trees were experiencing the world, and the idea that trees communicate with each other and support each other. I knew I wanted to primarily use a 72-voice choir (or nine choirs of eight voices each) each with a separate speaker, spread over the wide area where there are live oaks. I also knew that I wanted these voices to evoke something of the world of those trees. This led me to the question: ‘what do these voices actually sing?’ I didn’t want to simply give them nonsense sounds but it felt forced to use language in the way humans commonly do. But when I started looking back at very early languages I found what I was hoping for: ancient runic languages such as Elder Futhark and Ogham have a limited number of symbols with multiple possible meanings, these seemed to come from cultures that revered nature and lived with a much closer relationship to it. Not only that but I liked the fact of communicating not in complex sentences but more in shared and exchanged understandings. Similarly with Aquitanian, the ancient and unique forerunner of today’s Basque language, I liked the fact that these people built altars to evergreen oaks (giving the first movement its title ‘Artahe’). I used other languages too, especially from cultures where I felt there was a tradition of reverence of nature.”
While it’s impossible to fully capture the work on film, Jack Klink walked the installation at Descanso Gardens, Los Angeles and documented it – the film below can be experienced as a full one hour movie or, as with the installation itself, in a few chosen moments
A film of the creative process that led to the work can be seen here: