While most ambient music evokes a place or an ambience figuratively, (Brian Eno’s “Music for Airports” was, after all, not composed for a departure lounge), Yasuaki Shimizu’s latest musical challenge was to create music that worked on both a literal and metaphoric level. His current release, “Seventh Garden,” was originally composed as the “soundscape” for the massive Pacific Flora 2004 exhibition currently running in Shizuoka.
Playing in eight-hour cycles through a specially designed, flower-shaped speaker system, “Seventh Garden” accompanies visitors as they wander through the flora (and in some of the more avant-garde installments, robots and glass-blown figures) that make up the six consecutive gardens of the central exhibit, the “Dream Garden Factory.”
In lesser hands, this could easily have become a cliche of singing birds and falling water, or worse, another dreary, droning electronica piece. But Shimizu’s saxophone renditions of Bach’s Cello Suites have shown him to be a master of balancing silence, sound and echo, a skill well used on “Seventh Garden.”
The record begins with a children’s chorus reciting the names of different kinds of weeds. Spare and spacious, it achieves the solemnity of a Gregorian chant. Other tracks on the album venture into more electronic realms, complete with sine waves and unidentifiable throbs and bleeps, but like Shimizu’s Bach, the music always gently swings. Both augmenting the scenery of the garden while also becoming a sonic sculpture in itself, it is truly the “seventh garden” of the exhibition, what Shimizu has described as a “garden of the mind.”