A Sound Walk in Bussey Brook Meadow
Other Order (2014) is a sound walk created by media artist Teri Rueb that is set in the spontaneous landscape of Bussey Brook Meadow at the Arnold Arboretum. Where the formal plant collections of the Arboretum present visitors with carefully arranged and maintained specimens organized according to systems of botanical classification, Bussey Brook Meadow is a less easily categorized “emergent” ecology–an urban wild that has evolved through informal management processes that have left it open to colonization by spontaneous vegetation and the ever-shifting impacts of human interventions.
The sound walk presents a blend of recorded interviews and sounds drawn from and inspired by the landscape itself. Resilience is the hallmark of such emergent ecologies, as illuminated by the voice of the Arnold Arboretum’s retired Senior Research Scientist, Peter Del Tredici, as he accompanies a variety of guest visitors through the meadow.
The tracts that make up the contemporary Bussey Brook Meadow parcel have been owned and governed by disparate parties since the 1600s, including private farmers and residents, Harvard University, the Bussey Institute and the City of Boston. Designated as an “urban wild” in the 1970s and later brought together as a unified parcel, the site was incorporated into the Arnold Arboretum indenture in 1996. To link the Arboretum’s historical landscape and Forest Hills Station, the Blackwell Footpath that crosses the parcel opened in 2001, named for urban planner John Blackwell who dedicated over 30 years to the preservation of Boston urban wilds.
Bussey Brook Meadow is now managed as a living laboratory for urban ecology. It is a site where human interventions including agriculture, landfills, sewer, and transportation corridors interact with biological processes, and together they are allowed to run their “natural” course. Despite a long history of abuse and neglect, the site has evolved to its current state as a functional urban wetland. The careful observer will be rewarded with discoveries both delightful and perhaps disturbing, in this “Arboretum gone wild.”
The sound walk is a GPS-enhanced software application that senses the participant’s movement and location in the landscape and in response, plays back sounds at specific points through the landscape. Visitors are encouraged to download the app in advance of their visit and wear headphones for optimal listening. Be mindful of bicyclists and other pedestrians on the trail.
Public Transportation: Take the T to Forest Hills and enter the Arboretum through the Washington Street Gate. Follow Blackwell Footpath to the South Street Gate.
Suggested Parking: Park along Bussey Street to walk along Hemlock Hill Road. Turn right onto Valley Road to walk to the South Street Gate. Limited parking is available at the South Street Gate.
Don’t forget to bring your fully charged mobile device and headphones!
Download the app (250 MB) in advance of visiting Bussey Brook Meadow:
For iPad users: make sure the download setting is set to “iPhone Only” before searching.
Sounds of an evolving landscape [pdf] (Silva Spring/Summer 2014)
UB professor helps create sound walk through urban wild (UB Reporter)
A walk on the wild side (Harvard Gazette)
Created by Teri Rueb and Peter Del Tredici
Additional sound design: Adam McFillin
Mobile app development: Tom Stoll (iOS), Nima Vakili (Android)
Illustration: Alison Paul
Flute: Andrea Douglass
Other Order was commissioned by the Arnold Arboretum and supported by an Artist Residency at metaLab(@)Harvard.
This project was funded with a generous donation by Janine Luke in memory of Melvin Seiden.