Harmonic Bridge

Bill Fontana

Southwark Underground station and Tate Modern Turbine Hall
16 June 2006 – 16 July 2006

Harmonic Bridge reveals the musicality of sounds hidden within the structure of the Millennium Bridge, a suspension footbridge between St Paul’s and Tate Modern. It is alive with vibrations generated by the collective energy of pedestrians, weather conditions and architectural materials. This usually inaudible sonic environment is transformed into a simultaneous sound installation in the intermediate concourse at Southwark Underground station and Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall.

A network of vibration sensors, used by structural engineers, has been placed on the cables at different parts of the bridge. These translate the vibrations caused by wind, bicycles, pushchairs and shoes into sound frequencies. The bridge is transformed into a vast stringed instrument playing an ever changing composition improvised by its environment. The sounds – contrasting rhythms, tones and percussive shimmers – are played back through specially designed installations of loudspeakers.

Southwark station is the local underground station to Tate Modern. The bridge, the station and the museum were all ambitious Millennium projects that have altered our urban environment. Harmonic Bridge forms a link between these spaces, capturing the physical essence of the massive structure of the Millennium Bridge and turning it into an abstract and sensual experience.

Bill Fontana lives and works in San Francisco and is known internationally for his pioneering experiments in sound. He is interested in using the urban environment as a living source of musical information, and in the potential for its evocative qualities to conjure up visual imagery in the mind of the listener. Since the 1970s he has developed a practice based on real-time recordings of both natural and man-made events presented as site-specific sound installations. He has made works all over the world and has presented his sound sculptures extensively including at the Venice Biennale, The Reina Sofia, Madrid, and The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

A Platform for Art project in association with Tate Modern www.tate.org.uk/modern

Thanks to Arup, Meyer Sound and Autograph Sound UK, Bruel & Kjaer Vibration, and Haunch of Venison

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