Kensington Gardens, photograph by Talie Rose Eigeland.

Sound Gallery: IN A GARDEN by Brian Eno

For this episode of Sound Gallery, Brian Eno offers us a ‘sonic garden’ in which we can sense the layers of a landscape through layers of sound.

In anticipation of the Back to Earth exhibition and the 2022 Serpentine Pavilion opening in June, we’re launching Sound Gallery by releasing four commissions which were part of a public listening and events programme at the 2021 Serpentine Pavilion, designed by Sumayya Vally of Counterspace. For his commission, Brian Eno composed a stratified construction of sonic material, titled IN A GARDEN (2021), which was designed to move through the 2021 Pavilion, from the earth beneath visitors’ feet to the space above their heads.

IN A GARDEN is also Eno’s contribution to Back to Earth, Serpentine’s ongoing, multi-year project which responds to the climate crisis in collaboration with over sixty artists, thinkers, designers, and scientists. While IN A GARDEN was created to resonate with a particular place, Eno’s composition creates a space of its own through sound, offering us a ‘sonic garden’ which we can enter to sense our resonances with the surrounding environment. Other commissions from Back to Earth – including artist-led tools and campaigns – can be experienced at the project exhibition this summer, and through previous Serpentine Podcasts.

Sonic Description

For each of the sound commissions within Sound Gallery, Serpentine has worked with a sound artist to commission a written sonic description. For Brian Eno’s IN A GARDEN, Elif Shafak has written a text-based translation of the piece.

Click the box below to download this as a PDF.

The sonic descriptions are part of ongoing research into how our programme can be more accessible to D/deaf and low hearing audiences. Research is conducted within Serpentine’s Access Working Group.

Brian Eno on IN A GARDEN

I wanted to think of the music that I installed in the new Pavilion as a sort of sonic garden – a concentrated park within the real park. A garden is a place in which all sorts of things are brought together, and interest is created by spacing and contrast and the unexpected unfolding of the planting as it develops.

This piece is what I call a generative piece: it’s a set of procedural rules allowed to work themselves out. Usually I do this in such a way that the piece changes all the time. In this instance however, because I wanted to take advantage of the L-Acoustics L-ISA spatialisation technology, the piece is essentially a long recording, looped. So if you come at midday two days in a row you’ll hear almost the same music. Not exactly the same, because there are some random elements within the spatialisation itself. If it were a garden, it would be as though some of the plants had moved a bit during the night… Thinking about gardens, and about why we like gardens, has been a fruitful tangent for me.

People tend to imagine that making art is like making architecture – that you have a ‘plan’ or a ‘vision’ in mind before you start and then you set about making it. But my feeling is that making art can be more usefully thought of as being like gardening: you plant a few seeds and then start watching what happens between them, how they come to life and how they interact.

It doesn’t mean there’s no plan at all, but that the process of making is a process of you interacting with the object, and letting it set the pace. This approach is sometimes called ‘procedural’. I call it ‘generative’. Just as a garden is different every year, a piece of generative art might also be different each time you see or hear it. The implication of this is that such a work is never really finished – there is never a final state.

Brian Eno discusses IN A GARDEN with Hans Ulrich Obrist and Torkwase Dyson for Back to Earth Day, 19 June 2021. The conversation was hosted at the 2021 Serpentine Pavilion designed by Counterspace.

About Brian Eno

Brian Eno is a musician, producer, visual artist, activist, who first came to prominence as co-founder of Roxy Music before releasing solo works and collaborating with the likes of Harold Budd, David Byrne, David Bowie, U2, Laurie Anderson & Coldplay among others. His visual experiments with light and video have been seen in installations all over the globe. He is a founding member of the Long Now Foundation, trustee of Client Earth and patron of Videre est Credere.

Eno is a co-founder of EarthPercent, a charity that raises money from the music industry to fund climate actions and environmental causes. Read more about EarthPercent here.

About Elif Shafak

Elif Shafak is an award-winning British-Turkish novelist who has published 19 books, including her latest novel The Island of Missing Trees. She is a bestselling author in many countries and her work has been translated into 55 languages. 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and RSL Ondaatje Prize. The Forty Rules of Love was chosen by the BBC among 100 novels that shaped our world. Shafak holds a PhD in political science and she is an honorary fellow at St Anne’s College, Oxford University. She is a Fellow and a Vice President of the Royal Society of Literature. An advocate for women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights and freedom of expression, Shafak contributes to major publications around the world and was awarded the medal of Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.


Brian Eno, IN A GARDEN, 2021 was commissioned by Serpentine for Back to Earth, Sound Gallery, and the 2021 Serpentine Pavilion designed by Counterspace. It was curated by Rebecca Lewin and Kostas Stasinopoulos and produced by Holly Shuttleworth.

2021 Serpentine Pavilion sound commissions were supported by L-Acoustics Creations, and presented at the Pavilion in L-ISA Immersive Hyperreal Sound.

Sound Gallery is produced by Reduced Listening.

Brian Eno at the 2021 Serpentine Pavilion for Back to Earth Day, 2021. Image credit: Talie Rose Eigeland.


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