SOUND SCULPTURE WITH RESONATORS, New York, Toronto, Sydney and Melbourne, 1972 to 1978

This was an ongoing series of small installations made in alternative spaces and small galleries. It came out of a fascination with the idea that the world is musical at any given moment, if one has a musical point of view. Large resonant objects, such as bell jars and large wine-making bottles were particularly interesting in their ability to transform even traffic noise into very musical results by being natural acoustic filters and echo chambers. The installations involved placing resonant objects on the roof or some other outdoor part of a building and putting small microphones inside each object that would transmit the musical resonance to an indoor gallery space.

Bell jar with microphone inside  
This interest in the resonance of objects has continued, most recent in several projects in Europe, such as Perpetual Motion, Saint Denis, France (see below). In the near future, a permanent work will be created for the new Diözesanmuseum Köln, in which ancient medieval bells from their collection will be permanently mounted on the roof of their new museum to become the ears of the building (with microphones permanently installed inside each bell to transmit to a gallery space inside).  

PERPETUAL MOTION, Artifices 2 Exhibition, Department of Cultural Affairs, Saint Denis, 1992

This sound sculpture used the bells of the historic 12th century Basilica of Saint Denis as a subject. The bells have not been rung in more than 100 years, because one of the bell towers which originally housed these bells burnt down in a thunderstorm. The bells were moved to the remaining tower, but are not rung because the tower was not designed to withstand the stress of the bells ringing. However, these long, silent bells continually make a sound that no one has ever heard, the perpetual sound of the resonant frequencies of the bell excited by ambient sound pressure levels. Sensitive microphones were installed inside of the bells and transmitted the sounds to a sculptural installation of loudspeakers at the exhibition site

Inside of bell
© Bill Fontana, 1996

Ferry arriving at Kirribilli Wharf        

KIRRIBILLI WHARF, Australian Broadcasting Corp., Sydney, 1976

Kirribilli Wharf, like many other phenomena in the environment, is a natural sound sculpture in a state of automatic self-performance. An 8 channel sound portrait was made of the complex sound world found within the large floating concrete and wooden wharf in Sydney Harbor. The most interesting sounds were the percussive compression waves spontaneously formed in the many small vertical blow holes made from steel pipes inserted at many points in the wharf. This work was first exhibited as an installation at the Sydney Opera House, later at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, and, ten years later, at the Whitney Museum in New York.

Metal blow hole in Kirribilli Wharf
© Bill Fontana, 1996