The Wild Center has added yet another great feature to its educational, interactive outdoor campus. It's called the iForest, an "immersive sound and art installation" that is one of the first of its kind in the world.
Don't expect a typical art gallery or performance space, though. But, that's what The Wild Center is all about.
A few minutes walk from the museum building takes you to the entrance of the iForest. This paved part of the path includes a gorgeous wooden bridge that usually has a traffic jam because the view makes people pause.
The entrance to the iForest can be sensed before it is actually seen. The sound of singing voices filters through the leaves from a distance. The sound grew stronger as I approached the entrance.
The musical composition that plays through 24 hidden speakers is called “I Walk Towards Myself.” It was created by British composer Pete M. Wyer, who says it was inspired by his time spent in the Adirondacks. Some of the songs are in the Mohawk language, the most easterly tribe of the Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois Confederacy.
The entire loop of iForest is 1,000 feet of broad and flat trail. It is more accessible than a typical Adirondack trail, allowing for motorized wheelchairs, bikes, and some strollers. Senior hikers and toddlers will also find this trail easy to navigate.
Composer Pete M. Wyer refers to his piece as a "place-based musical for this specific space and land in the Adirondack forest." As someone who loves the Adirondack forest, I thought the music added a wonderful dimension to my walk.
One of the surprises is how the voices come from every direction. As I walked along the trail, I changed my orientation toward the different speakers hidden in the trees, and as I did this the music became softer or louder with each of my movements.
I found the different choral pieces enchanting, and I often paused at certain points to simply stand and listen. When a bench appeared, I took the opportunity to sit and let my mind soak up the music.
The spirituality of the Haudenosaunee is based on their acknowledgement of the natural world's importance. Their "Thanksgiving ceremony," an address that takes place before important events, is an ascending and expanding expression of gratitude.
The ceremony focuses on how humans should be humble to nature. It is a reminder that humans should give back.
The six movements of “I Walk Towards Myself” are based on the beliefs from the legend of Oseetah. There's also a movement inspired by Utowana Lake, which is based on what the passing of time might be like from the lake’s perspective.
The voices are integral to the music; the lyrics are not meant to be processed as language, but as sounds. At least, this was my impression as I sat on the bench and let the mood of the music wash over me. It was beautiful and soothing, and I felt meditative from letting the forest "speak" to me in this way.
As I left the iForest, I found myself reluctant to rejoin the civilized world. I had sunk so deeply into the natural world. I found myself noticing small details that I normally overlook in the landscape.
The white blooms against the weathered wood railing made a wonderful composition.
As I left, my attention was drawn to something I hadn't noticed before on my way into the iForest. There was a side path that beckoned me. Along this route, I found one of my favorite flowers, the wild violet.
The goal of the iForest is to foster a deeper connection to the environment, and to help us see ourselves as part of nature. It definitely worked on me.
On the way out I stopped at the gift shop, and they had just gotten a new shipment of the iForest music on CD. I was happy to bring it home with me because I had enjoyed the experience so much.