Gardening Music

Something essential happens in a vegetable garden. It’s a place where if you can’t say “I love you” out loud, you can say it in seeds. And the land will reciprocate, in beans.

~ Robin Wall-Kimmerer

Gardening music is a project born out of my love of gardening as a tonic for the travails of the working musician. For many years, I felt that gardening was music’s opposite: immediate, physical, smell-of-the-earth, dirt-under-the-fingernails, rain-or-shine work with tangible results you can put in your mouth and eat.

Gardening Music: “Glasshouse” live at Moon, Wellington.
Performed June 2023 for the WJC Artist Series.

However, I have come to realise that the two disciplines are closer than they appear. Since I first started composing, gardening themes have worked their way into the titles of my pieces. Composing takes me a long time, enough time for other stuff that I’m thinking about to filter in and influence what I think the rhythms and intervals I’m putting together might mean. Somewhat by accident, I’ve come up with a whole book of tunes that reference the natural world.

Learning to garden has taken me through a similar arc as learning to compose, and learning how to play my own music and communicate it to other people. It takes time to figure out the best ways to bring out a song (or a plant): it doesn’t always work the first time you try. Also, sometimes my friends have had tips or tricks that have proved invaluable!

Gardening Music (full concert) live at Space Academy, Christchurch. Performed October 27th 2023 for the 03 Sessions.

Some of these tunes are very old, my earliest “jazz” compositions: some of them are brand new. The band is very new, we’ve only rehearsed and performed together a few times, but we got an instant rapport happening. That inspired me to perform the music with friends in other cities, and the results have been different and satisfying.

With “Gardening Music”, we’re going for a performance that emphasises melody, openness and generosity. Kimmerer’s quote could just as easily apply to the bandstand as the garden—when words fail, can always say “I love you” with music (or beans!).