Spring 2016

Stuart Collection

Scripps Institution of Oceanography

La Jolla Playhouse 

UCSD Theatre & Dance


Composer: John Luther Adams

Project Director: Mathieu Gregoire

Technical Director / Sound System Design: Yen Chun Yang

Software Design: Jim Altieri

Sensor Design: Douglas Alden

Landscape Design: Andrew Spurlock

Project Information

The Stuart Collection at the University of California, San Diego seeks to enrich the cultural, intellectual, and scholarly life of the UCSD campus and of the San Diego community by building and maintaining a unique collection of site-specific works by leading artists of our time. It has been inventive in both its curatorial point of view and its working processes. The selection of artists for commissions is based on the advice of the Stuart Collection Advisory Board, which is composed of art professionals of international stature. Many of the artists who have designed works for the collection are associated with ideas that are seldom represented in public sculpture collections.

John Luther Adams is an American composer whose music is inspired by nature, especially the landscapes of Alaska where he lived for many years. He is a recent recipient of the Pulitzer Prize, Grammy Award and Schuman Award. Adams describes himself, saying: "My music has always been profoundly influenced by the natural world and a strong sense of place. Through sustained listening to the subtle resonances of the northern soundscape, I hope to explore the territory of sonic geography—that region between place and culture...between environment and imagination.”

Working with the La Jolla Playhouse, the UCSD Department of Theatre and Dance, and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, John Luther Adams has developed a new work, Four Sound Gardens, for the Stuart Collection, to be located throughout the Eucalyptus groves of the Theatre District on the UCSD campus. It is a musical composition driven by the wind and light conditions on the site, sensed by instruments in real time, so that the work is continually changing and never twice the same. It will consist of the Day and Night Choirs and the Day and Night Wind.

The Day Choir is a field of synthesized tones tuned to harmonics 2, 3, 5, 7 and 9 of the natural harmonic series. The music of the Day Choir responds to the ever-changing intensity of daylight in the grove. As the light increases, the sounds rise in pitch and become brighter, and as the light decreases, the sounds fall and fade away. The Night Choir is a field of synthesized tones tuned to harmonics 2, 2/3, 4/5, 4/7 and 8/9 of a sub-harmonic series (an inversion of the harmonic series). As darkness grows deeper, the sounds of the Night Choir fall in pitch and become darker. As daylight returns and darkness recedes, the sounds of the Night Choir rise and fade away. In early morning and again around sunset, both the Day Choir and Night Choir will be equally present – producing especially rich harmonic colors.

Adding a more melodic, dynamic element to The Central Grove are the Day Wind and the Night Wind. The Day Wind traverses harmonics 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14 of the natural harmonic series. The Night Wind traces harmonics 8, 8/9, 8/10, 8/11, 8/12, 8/13 and 8/14 of the sub- harmonic series. These two choirs respond to real-time changes in the wind on the site, tracing arpeggios that rise and fall with the wind. Each musical voice will have its own discreet location in a matrix of 128 loudspeakers, with eight (8) speakers on each of eight (8) levels – from ground level to the treetops – on both sides of the central walkway. Completion of the work is planned for Spring 2016.