SPICER — With a tree-lined walking path as an ever-changing stage, unpredictable birdsong in the pit orchestra and a stray chipmunk as a possible cast member, every minute of the "Prairie Woods Sound Garden" performance Saturday afternoon will be unique to every member of the audience.

Whether a person spends 20 minutes or two hours in the self-guided, immersive walk-through event, each participant will have a different experience, said JG Everest, a Minneapolis composer and director.

“This work is in the moment,” he said. “It’s a chance to rejuvenate and to heal and to come back to our Mother Earth.”

The free one-day event — which includes original poetry, live music by Everest and other musicians, recorded sounds coming from hidden nooks and professional dancers creatively moving through the woods — takes place from noon to 4 p.m. at the Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center in rural Spicer.

Small speakers will be tucked into bird houses, like this, and placed along a trail for a one-day "Sound Garden"  Aug. 7 at the Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center in rural Spicer. Carolyn Lange / West Central Tribune
Small speakers will be tucked into bird houses, like this, and placed along a trail for a one-day "Sound Garden" Aug. 7 at the Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center in rural Spicer. Carolyn Lange / West Central Tribune

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The event is not a performance in the traditional sense with actors and musicians standing on a stage doing repeat shows.

Instead, the words, music and movement provided by people will mingle with the natural sights and sounds of the woods and wetlands in a performance that Everest calls “durational.”

Small speakers will be tucked into felt pods, like this, and placed along a trail for a one-day "Sound Garden"  Aug. 7 at the Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center in rural Spicer. Carolyn Lange / West Central Tribune
Small speakers will be tucked into felt pods, like this, and placed along a trail for a one-day "Sound Garden" Aug. 7 at the Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center in rural Spicer. Carolyn Lange / West Central Tribune

It’s not something you “see,” he said, but is more about the connections that are made between the individual and “what’s going on around them.”

It all takes place as people wander, stand or sit along a wide, walkable path that begins at the center's pavilion and ends at Geer Island.

The trek isn’t long but Everest hopes people will take their time on the path.

What participants see and hear will depend on what’s happening at that particular time at that particular spot on the path, said Everest.

They will see and hear something totally different on that same section of the path a few minutes later.

“I’m trying to create an experience that really is meaningful,” he said.

Everest has spent the last couple weeks on that path — listening, watching and absorbing everything the space offers.

He’s written an original score of instrumental “site-specific” music that he’s recorded in his portable studio. One of the unique sounds that he’s recorded that will be heard somewhere along the path comes from a handful of wooden name tags that children wear around their necks while participating in a history program at the Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center's cabin.

JG Everest uses his portable studio to mix original music he is writing for a Sound Garden performance at the Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center. The free, interactive event will be available 12-4 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 7, 2021. Carolyn Lange / West Central Tribune
JG Everest uses his portable studio to mix original music he is writing for a Sound Garden performance at the Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center. The free, interactive event will be available 12-4 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 7, 2021. Carolyn Lange / West Central Tribune

It’s those special site-specific touches that make each sound garden unique, he said.

Different segments from the recorded music will play on about 50 small, battery-powered speakers placed inside birdhouses or felt pods that will be located along the path.

As a person walks away or turns their head, they’ll hear a different component of the piece, while at the same time a musician playing a guitar may start playing behind them while a dancer can be seen near a tree down the path.

Small speakers will be tucked into bird houses and felt pods and placed along a trail for a one-day "Sound Garden"  Aug. 7 at the Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center in rural Spicer. Carolyn Lange / West Central Tribune
Small speakers will be tucked into bird houses and felt pods and placed along a trail for a one-day "Sound Garden" Aug. 7 at the Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center in rural Spicer. Carolyn Lange / West Central Tribune
The next minute the entire tableau will change as the dancers and musicians from Everest's Free Range Orchestra — along with the birds and chipmunks — continue to move and respond to the trees, water. wind and sun.

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Everest said people can walk the path, go have a picnic or take a hike somewhere else on the sprawling property, and come back and walk the path again for an entirely different experience.

Funded by the Minnesota State Arts Board’s Arts Touring Program, Everest had originally planned to do an evening star sound garden at Mount Tom at Sibley State Park last year. The COVID-19 pandemic sidelined that and the event was shifted to Prairie Woods.

Everest, who worked with New London artist Bethany Lacktorin on a sound garden called "My Ocean" in 2016 on the Ordway Prairie near Brooten, has written and directed nearly 30 sound gardens — mostly in the Twin Cities.

Everest said he hopes to eventually do an event at Sibley State Park.

Registration is not required for the "Prairie Woods Sound Garden," but it is suggested in order to provide information about last-minute weather-related changes. Information about registering for the event can be found at www.prairiewoodselc.org

If you go

What: "Prairie Woods Sound Garden"

When: Noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 7

Where: Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center, 12718 10th St. N.E., rural Spicer

Info: Free, family-friendly, self-guided immersive art and nature experience. See more at www.prairiewoodselc.org