The Tonic Garden:

a sonic survey of soothing sounds

Produced by Mark Vernon and Ian Middleton

The Tonic Garden was the first programme in the ‘Bedside Radio’ series produced by Mark Vernon for hospital radio station, Radio Royal. It was created as part of a two-year digital arts residency at Forth Valley Royal Hospital, Larbert, Scotland.

This programme was designed as an ambient radio artwork, a peripheral listening experience created with patients suffering from insomnia or tinnitus in mind. Keenly aware of the difficulties of sleeping in the unfamiliar and often noisy environment of a busy hospital the focus was on providing patients with some form of escape. It was made for a situation in which a kind of unfocussed, undemanding form of listening is expected and the non-linear, non- narrative format is a reflection of this. Listeners can drop in and out at any point and pick up listening again at another time. The voice interviews were initially intended just as research in this survey of soothing sounds but the descriptions and reasoning behind the choices ended up becoming an intrinsic part of the work itself. Field recordings and bespoke music are combined with voices to create an illustrated aural survey polling the sounds that were found to be the most relaxing.

The Tonic Garden reflects the range of sounds suggested by staff at Forth Valley Royal Hospital, Radio Royal volunteers, the FDAMH media group and the public at large and features original music and field recordings created by Mark Vernon and Ian Middleton.

The programme was first broadcast on a continuous loop over the patient’s bedside monitor system at Forth Valley Royal for a two-week period in 2013. It has since been aired in full on Soundart Radio, Resonance FM and Basic FM and was featured as a two-part edition of Framework:afield.

This project was supported by Creative Scotland and NHS Forth Valley