Growing the iForest
iForest is an immersive sound experience that typically covers an area of woodland, it uses a unique scoring system and cutting edge technology to fill it with some of the most beautiful singing voices in the world, the voices moving seamlessly around and throughout the space, creating a natural connection between the human and the natural world and inspiring a deeper sense of connection to that world.
My interest in new ways of music making and in the natural world come together in the iForest.
It started out as a research project: ‘The iPod Forest’. Back in 2005 it was a room full of iPods each with a separate sound/musical part, but each part of the whole work.
Later on, around 2010, it became the Immersive Forest as I worked in ambisonic studios in London and New York and created experimental ways of writing music for voices and instruments that conventional western musicians could read.
Eventually, in 2016, I premiered ‘Song of the Human’ a work for 16 voices over 18 speakers, at Brookfield Place in Manhattan, commissioned by WNYC’s ‘New Sounds’.
The following year, 2017, a full scale outdoor iForest opened at the Wild Center, Tupper Lake, attracting visitors and press (the installation concept and design have been in continual use to this day).
Since then iForests have made appearances to large numbers of visitors in places such as Descanso Gardens, Los Angeles (2020) and New York Botanical Garden (2020/21). I continue to develop new works and new ways to experience those works in hopes that they lead to experiences that share my own passion for the natural world and for our part in it.
Pete M. Wyer. August 2021
A short film about the development of iforest
How it works
Every iForest is unique because every location is unique. However, over the years I have developed worked to make the process both flexible and practical. So here are the ways in which it typically works:
Specially created installations
The most rewarding way to create an iForest is to create it from scratch in direct response to the landscape. To do this I make site visits, sketches and recordings, carry out research, and with the results, I create a unique musical score for that location, often using up to 72 voices, spreading the sound across between 24 and 72 speakers. From there the score is recorded, most often with groups of 8 – 24 singers in studios so that each of the spatial parts can be separated. Then it is mixed in accordance with the site-maps that were created at the beginning of the research. And finally the speakers and operating system are installed (this is sometimes handled by iForest and sometimes directly by the site’s management). The results create a deeper connection to the specific landscape and the creative process itself, which is often filmed, helps to tell the story of the piece to people who may be interested to visit. The process typically takes 1 – 3 years from start to finish.
Specially curated installations
Naturally, the above process is also the most expensive and for some locations it is a better solution to curate works from already existing music, leaving out the elements of site-visits, scoring and recording and instead mapping the installation to the location, choosing and remixing content that will be suitable.
Content changing installations
The physical infrastructure of iForest installations is a little like a theatre: it can be used to produce any number of works (the original concept and design of iForest at Wild Center in the Adirondacks has been in continuous use since 2017). Hence, increasingly I am producing numerous works for the same site over time.
Time Period – Temporary installations
iForest has the benefit of being all-weather and very easy to maintain. The shortest installation period to date has been for a one-day festival: Drums Along the Hudson in Manhattan in 2018, the longest continuous installation to date has been at the Wild Center, now running continuously for 5 years. In short, anything is possible, but generally iForest has been conceived to run for long periods.