English composer and musician, Pete Wyer discusses creating the sensation of silence through music – and introduces the idea for a project that could bring ‘quiet’ to some of our less peaceful places.

‘It’s something of an irony that to come to a point of ‘silence’ we often need noise.  In my years of creating opera and music for theatre I became very aware that the best way to create the feeling of silence is to produce sounds that deepen the feeling of stillness.

This is partly because in the human experience there isn’t really such a thing as silence (the body makes noise, we can continually hear the sound of our own blood pumping and the high pitch whine of our central nervous system).  We do, however, have enormous benefit from ‘quiet’.  Whether we’re conscious of it or not, we continually take in information from all around us, bombarding the senses.

This has led to an ambition to create a ‘Peace Garden’ that uses sound.  Since 2004 I have worked with ‘immersive sound’.  In recent times I have created immersive choral works, recording the voices of the choir separately and playing them back over multiple speakers distributed throughout a space.  I have also recorded the sounds of songbirds at dawn over 18 simultaneous audios in order to try to recreate the immersive nature of a woodland at dawn.

For ‘Peace Garden’ I would like to create a space where people can sit and be silent and listen to the songbirds of spring and to singing voice all around them.  Somewhere to lose the anxieties of the future or pains of the past for a short time.  Somewhere to leave behind emails, cellphones and be connected only to the moment, to simply be peaceful.

‘Peace Garden’ is suited to beautiful environments, of course, but I very much like the idea of creating it for places that are not conventionally peaceful such as airports or railway stations – or perhaps in churches that sit empty much of the time’.

Pete’s most recent installation work Song of the Human was commissioned by Brookfield Arts, New York and performed in Brookfield Place in October 2016. Partly inspired by Professor Shigeru Miyagawa’s theory that human speech is evolved from birdsong, it explores ‘the human as a part of nature and the nature of being human’.  Song of the Human moved from New York to Messums in Wiltshire for six weeks in early 2017.