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Descanso Gardens
Photograph: Time Out/Michael Juliano

The trees are singing at Descanso Gardens

In “The Sky Beneath Our Feet,” choral music plays out across 72 speakers scattered across the gardens.

Michael Juliano
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Michael Juliano
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Stepping outside of your home can be an unbelievably stressful process right now. But under the right circumstances it can also be a cathartic one that reminds you of the peace and beauty that abounds outdoors in Los Angeles. The latest installation at Descanso Gardens, as you might guess, thankfully falls into that second camp.

Composer Pete M. Wyer has crafted “The Sky Beneath Our Feet,” a site-specific musical piece that plays out across 72 independent speakers scattered across the La Cañada Flintridge garden’s forest of coast live oaks. (Swipe through our Instagram post below, and you’ll see exactly what we’re talking about in the videos.)

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As you meander the grounds, you’ll hear different fragments of choral voices (there are nine choirs of eight voices each) and string parts weave in and out of each other. You may be walking past some quiet harmonies, but down the path you’ll hear a louder, lyrical vocal piece calling you over. Ultimately, like Descanso’s holiday tradition Enchanted, Wyer’s composition is a clever way of framing the natural allure of the gardens.

There’s no right way to experience “The Sky Beneath Our Feet.” Yes, you’ll spot occasional signage and speakers tucked at the base of tree trunks, but sound is really your sole guide here; just listen for music in the distance and you’ll know you’re headed in the right direction.

Descanso Gardens
Photograph: Michael Juliano
Descanso Gardens
Photograph: Michael Juliano

That’s ultimately where the magic rests in “The Sky Beneath Our Feet”: Since each speaker is playing a unique part of the composition, it’ll sound different with every loop through the forest. And though the piece has been in the works for two years, it’s managed to strike a perfect balance for our current chaotic moment. Neither sorrowful nor celebratory, the music acts as a poetic and uplifting way to reconnect with the crunch of earth under your feet and sunlight filtering through the trees—something many of us have probably been missing in our living-room–bound lives.

You’ll need a timed reservation ($15) to visit Descanso Gardens, which is currently limited to 30% capacity—and, yes, Descanso requires that you social distance and wear a face mask. But don’t worry if you can’t score the exact time slot you were hoping for: “The Sky Beneath Our Feet” plays daily at 10am, noon, 2pm, 4pm and 6pm through September 3 (just consider using some bug spray if you go later in the day). You’ll find the installation scattered across the Camellia Forest and Oak Grove.

Descanso Gardens
Photograph: Michael Juliano

 

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