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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. – Brian Eno


For his contribution to Back to Earth, Brian Eno has composed a layered, stratified construction of sonic material, titled IN A GARDEN (2021) that moves through the Pavilion, from the earth beneath visitors’ feet to the space above their heads. He writes:

This piece started life two years ago as what I call ‘country music’. In my use of the phrase that doesn’t involve banjos and cowboys, but is intended to be a music that is an evocation of being in a landscape, in a place.

The Serpentine Gallery really is a place, and it’s in the middle of a park. 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.

Sonic Description

For each of the sound commissions taking place in 2021 Serpentine Pavilion designed by Counterspace, 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.

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 and through the Artist Residency focusing on disability and inclusion.

The Campaign

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 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.


Brian Eno, IN A GARDEN, 2021 is commissioned by Serpentine for Serpentine Pavilion 2021 designed by Counterspace.

Sound commissions supported by L-Acoustics Creations, presented in L-ISA Immersive Hyperreal Sound


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