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Fell to Fern
Kikù Hibino
Catalogue Number
Release Date
November 4, 2022

“Fell to Fern” is a 4-channel, site-specific sound installation by Chicago musician and artist Kikù Hibino. In partnership with Experimental Sound Studio and Chicago Park District, it opened at the Fern Room of the Lincoln Park Conservatory from June 19 until October 16, 2022.

The Fern Room was designed by Jens Jensen in 1906, who wanted to give visitors a glimpse of what Chicago might have looked like millions of years ago. Lush ferns, rocky outcroppings, and an indoor lagoon evoke a swampy prehistoric landscape. Inspired by the fact that the room is a kind of time machine, Hibino’s long-form soundscape invites early memories from his grandparents' small interior courtyard in Japan into the present moment.

Grains of electronic sound from modular synths, the Prophet 6 and Tenori-on were recorded entirely by hand, asynchronous with clock signals in order to elicit the geometric patterns of flying spores, rhizomes, and fern leaves. The faint melody slowly transforms like the pale sunlight falling on the ferns that sway in the wind. And It slowly continues to metamorphose, like memory itself.

Track 2 is a recording of the closing performance on October 16, 2022. It features a live performance in collaboration with Alex Inglizian of Experimental Sound Studio. Alex plays a modular synthesizer while Kikù plays an OP-1, Monome Devices, and Tenori-on, again, without daring to intentionally synchronize these devices.

Artist Statement: I have many memories associated with the fern leaf. My grandparents used to live in an old Japanese-style house with a small interior courtyard and a tea room. Both rooms were my grandfather’s favorite. The tall cedar and pine trees hid us from the sunlight and city noise. Moss covered the tree roots and the stones in the garden. I remember the cry of the Japanese bush warbler. As a young boy, this silent tension used to make me feel uncomfortable and nervous. I have a memory from before I even turned 10 years old. My grandfather had called me into the dining room. There was a birdcage made of iron and inside was a young little brown-eared bulbul bird laying on a towel looking towards me. My grandfather told me he had found it underneath a fern leaf in the courtyard. The young chick had called from below him, and with the ground covered in ferns, it was hard to find the bird at first. My grandfather suspected the bird had fallen from a nest near the top of the trees. The fern and moss must’ve acted as the cushion. We ignored our family members telling us the youngling would die after its fall, and soon enough the chick began growing bigger and bigger in its birdcage until one day, we let the bird free in our courtyard. That bird, without hesitation to give us a glimpse back, flew with great force up high towards the city. This burst of animal instinct made us laugh. For a while after that, every time we saw a brown-eared bulbul, my grandfather and I would share a small smiling moment together. “Fell to Fern” is my first sound installation. I would’ve loved to share this with my grandparents and my mother. Although they are gone now, the children of that fern leaf that saved that bird that day, must still be growing in the same spot. I’m certain of it. I wonder if the moss and ferns of that beautiful garden still rescue young chicks who fall from their nests. There’s a saying that plants are much more clever than people. Maybe this smart and kind fern, even separated by time and place, has pieced back together the memories of my family into this botanical garden. With those thoughts in mind, and with gratitude for the ferns and for the people who love this Fern Room, I have made this music.

Track 1 Recorded and Mixed by Kikù Hibino Track 2 Recorded live in concert at Lincoln Park Conservatory by Rafael Loza, Mixed by Alex Inglizian

Mastered by Roc Jiménez de Cisneros

Design by Joe Gilmore

Digital Tracklist

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