As I've been expanding my little rooftop vegetable garden, I've been thinking back to 1997, when I got a strange phone call from my old friend David Birn (Birn, not Byrne). David's client wanted music to play automatically in a building, and was having a hard time finding someone who could figure out how to do it. Hmm, I thought, I'm a show control and an audio guy, that's no big deal. Turns out, though, the building was something special:
David's client was Francis (Frank) Cabot, who, over many years, had built up a incredible garden called Les Quatre Vents (the four winds) on a mountain in Quebec. Mr. Cabot wanted French singer Charles Trenet's Le Jardin Extraordinaire to play whenever people walked into the Pigeonnier (building shown above):
I designed and installed some theme-park grade technology, not just for the Pigeonnier, but also for two frog sculptures in other parts of the garden. With each, when garden visitors (unknowingly) cross infra-red beams, music starts playing automatically. One area is Dixieland jazz; another a string quartet. In a later year, Mr. Cabot expanded the concept to include a musical a topiary opera theatre, and (as far as I know) all are still working today (with occasional sensor replacement over the years). In the gardening world, Mr. Cabot's ideas were quite an innovation; I recall watching some of the first guests in the garden grinning widely and some even danced.
You can read all about it in Mr. Cabot's book, The Greater Perfection:
There's also some very cool VR panoramas of the garden here, and, best of all, if you're in the Charlevoix region of Quebec this summer, you can see the garden for yourself. The public is allowed into the garden several times every summer, with all admission proceeds going to a local environmental group. It truly is an extraordinary garden!
Mr. Cabot died at age 86 in November, 2011. New York Times obituary here.