Composing a Landscape Pt. 1: The Impact of Music

By Katie Kramer

A powerful element exists that connects every single person on the planet. We acknowledge its existence consciously and unconsciously. The absence of this element is noticeable and can shift our entire experience. This common element is music. Music is a profound part of our everyday experience. From our stereos, to live performances, and every note in between, our lives are brightened by music.

We are a musical species, but not many people realize it. Music is embedded within us as human beings. We enjoy listening to music, but it goes much deeper than one would think. Music has been proven through multiple instances to have curative powers. People with Parkinsonism can regain control over their bodies by listening to music with a steady beat. Amnesic patients are known to retain their musical abilities despite their regressing memories. Depression, schizophrenia, and anxiety can be treated with music therapy. A common phenomenon occurring in people who are hard of hearing is the presence of musical hallucinations, in which the music they hear is so real and persistent that they are convinced a radio is on in the next room. Our pulses will align with the tempo of the piece, as does our walking pace. Music has such a strong influence over us that its concept can be incorporated into multiple aspects within our lives.

Pathways help define the musicality within the experience of a landscape. Pictured here, the pathway leading into Urban Courtyard.

A common misconception about music is that it requires sounds made with instruments or voices. If we take John Cage’s 4 Minutes and 33 Seconds, for example, we can see that this is not true. The only equipment this piece requires is a timer. Music can be a compilation of sounds from our surrounding environment. The wind blowing, birds chirping, squirrels playing tag, and trickling water in a nearby stream compose a symphony of the forest. Landscapes have musicality sprinkled into them; we can spot these elements by being observant and using active listening. Think about the different musical instruments and their characteristics. Do any of these qualities align with the materials in your yard? For example, an upright bass is deep and strong, but softer in timbre than low brass instruments such as tubas or baritones. They create the foundation on which the rest of the orchestra builds. Grass matches these characteristics; it serves as the foundation for the rest of the landscape, but it is still soft in texture.

As an education minor, I am always excited to learn and possibly develop new methods of teaching. I believe that, with the power of music, I can teach people about different topics through the musical elements embedded within the piece. To test this method of teaching, I composed music for two of TLC’s projects this summer which will be shared in the next part of this series.

Listen to the music present in the outdoor environment at Song Ranch: