Following a hiatus in 2020 and 2021 when the Lincoln Park Conservatory was closed during the height of the pandemic, Experimental Sound Studio (ESS) relaunches its long-running Florasonic series at the Lincoln Park Conservatory. Florasonic is a program that commissions new, original, site-specific sound works for installation on a four-channel sound system in the Fern Room at Chicago’s Lincoln Park Conservatory.

During the Puffin grant period, ESS commissioned two artists to create original work:

Kikù Hibino’s work took inspiration from the flora in the space His association with the fern leaf begins with early memories of his grandparents’ small interior courtyard and tea room in Japan. He recalls how the tall cedar and pine trees hid them from the sunlight and city noise, and how a cushion of fern leaves and mosses once saved a young brown-eared bulbul who fell out of its nest. In the music he composed, Kikù brings these memories of his family through space and time into the Fern Room.

Rob Frye’s installation Evolutionary Sounds incorporates woodwind instruments, birdsong, and field recordings gathered in the Prairie State of Illinois which were manipulated to reveal a native soundscape somehow in harmony with the exotic flora inside the Lincoln Park Conservatory. Slowing down bird sounds to a more human friendly speed unveils a beauty and complexity achieved over millennia.

Both commissioned works pull audiences members into a different pace, as evoked by bringing the past forward in different ways, and which more closely aligns with the natural world that surrounds us.

The past two years have brought the urgency of environmental and social justice issues into sharp focus. As we restart Florasonic, we prioritize these issues in our curatorial vision, commissioning artists who will use this high-traffic, free, public platform as a space to address these contemporary topics. The broad themes of environment and social justice mirror the amalgamation of considerations already embedded in the Lincoln Park Conservatory, which acts as a refuge and educational center for the natural world located in the center of the third-largest city, and one of the most racially and economically charged cities, in the U.S.