Talking Trees Installation at Heritage Farm

Brooke Joyce and Harvey Sollberger stand under one of the Talking Trees tripods.

Brooke Joyce and Harvey Sollberger stand under one of the Talking Trees tripods.

Talking Trees is an outdoor sound installation created by Brooke Joyce and Harvey Sollberger.

Talking Trees began as a casual, post-concert conversation between composers Brooke Joyce and Harvey Sollberger in 2009. A shared interest in making music in non-traditional venues was discovered, as well as a love for nature and the wonderful landscape of northeast Iowa. Four years later, we are excited to share the fruits of our labor at the beautiful Seed Savers Heritage Farm.

Our goal is to provide visitors with a sensory experience that compliments rather than overwhelms the natural soundscape. As you walk the southern side of the Valley Trail, you will encounter four large, metal tripods, designed and built by Kelly Ludeking, which contain four small speakers. You’ll hear sounds that were recorded at Seed Savers last May. Each tripod features a single sonic theme:

I. Water

A stream runs parallel to most of the Valley Trail. You’ll hear sounds from this water source, along with raindrops and wind chimes. As the day progresses, the sounds become more resonant and reverberant.

II. Birds

Many varieties of songbirds make their home at Seed Savers. Several are featured in this part of the installation. The bird calls become less frequent and more resonant as the day progresses.

III. Frogs

Elsewhere on the farm are areas favored by frogs, captured here in the twilight hours. As dawn moves to dusk, the frog sounds become more reverberant, spacious, and sustained.

IV. Insects

In particular, chirping crickets and buzzing flies. As time passes, the buzzing becomes more sustained, and we begin to hear a more defined pitch center.

We invite you to wander and linger as you like. Begin by making your way to the Valley Trail, and take the right fork when it branches. The distance from the parking lot to the end of the installation is approximately 1.25 miles and takes about 25 minutes to walk (without stopping).

Throughout the month of May the installation will run every day from 9 a.m. – 7 p.m., rain or shine. If you visit at different times of day, you’ll experience different sounds, as each station in the installation goes through a transformation throughout the 10-hour cycle.

Please share your thoughts, either by writing on the notebook outside the visitors center, or by visiting and clicking on “Talking Trees.”

Coinciding with this art installation is an additional exhibit at Heritage Farm, titled “Grassfed.” Both art exhibits kick-off on May 4th, accompanied by a rare plant sale from the preservation collection at Seed Savers Exchange. Read about “Grassfed” and the rare plant sale here.

Structural Design by Kelly Ludeking, technical assistance from Bruce Larson (electronics), Dennis Pottratz (solar panel) and Steve Smith (programming).  Technical Information:

  • Sound Device: Raspberry Pi, running Linux
  • Software: Pure Data
  • Solar Panel: SunWize 55W
  • Battery: Dura-Start Deep Cycle Marine Battery
  • Speakers: Pyle PLMCA20 Motorcycle Speakers


  • Iowa Arts Council
  • Luther College

Special Thanks:

Hugh Livingston, Benji Nichols, Brandon Schmidt and Dan Trueman

The Lillian Goldman Visitors Center at Seed Savers Exchange is open Monday through Friday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Weekends 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Directions here.

Join the Facebook event here!

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  1. This past year my husband and I finally attended their Annual Conference and Campout in July. It was one of the most inspiring and engaging weekends we’ve had in quite a while. It was a low key affair with no more than 150 attendees and the speakers were fabulous. I was thrilled to attend a talk by Rosalind Creasy , whose books I pored over while planning my first children’s garden 10 years ago. I was also elated by the mission of the Hudson Valley Seed Library , which was started by a librarian and combines art and gardening in a way that thrills this artist gardener’s heart. One of my favorite parts of the weekend was the tour of the land which traveled through the various isolation gardens where they are slowly working through the seed bank and growing out hundreds of varieties each year to keep the seeds viable and healthy. At the end of the tour we stopped into the seed fulfillment center and got the opportunity to see firsthand what happens after we place our seed order each year. It’s a sweet feeling to be able to picture the land, the facility and the people who are working together to enable me to purchase my garden seeds each January.