Monday, March 23, 2009

The Chorale and the Garden: Polyphony and Sustainability

The beauty of a sustainable landscape or garden is seen in the contrapuntal nature of the nested ecosystem services. Like the polyphonic four part voices of a Bach chorale, the four ecosystem services (regulating, provisioning, providing and informing) are played against each other, linearly through time and space. The regulating or supporting services such as atmospheric exchange are the bass line, the inner harmonies of the garden are given by the provisioning services and with the addition of the third voice of the providing services offer the melody of the informing services to float along on top.

When listening to polyphonic music, the audience is aware of both the vertical relationships (the nested relations of the services) and the horizontal movement through time and space. This oscillation back and forth between the chordal and the melodic, and finds an analogy in the garden landscape where the vertical dependencies of regulating, provisioning and providing services play against the horizontal movement of the melodic informing services.

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