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Bill Fontana’s Urban Sound Sculptures

by Vivien Park

“There is no noise, only sound.” – John Cage

Bill Fontana is a sound artist who has created over three decades worth of site-specific sculptures and installations. He first became fascinated with field recordings while studying under John Cage in the mid 60s, and has chosen to use ambient sounds in all of his installations. Fontana regards the physical environment as a living source of musical information, where meaningful sound patterns can often be found.

His installations usually involved the relocation of sounds from their source environments to another setting, resulting in complex and layered compositions from the mixing of sonic elements between the two spaces. By transforming "noise" into compositions, the artist hopes to stimulate society into developing a sensitivity for its ambient sounds, causing more of the general public soundscape to become designed. The act of re-contextualization of sounds also intensifies their visual quality by re-locating imageries from sight to memory, knowledge, and imagination.

Fontana’s work has been installed in cities such as Berlin, New York, and Kyoto. Below is a video interview of one of his most recent installations, Spiraling Echoes, in which various sounds of San Francisco were projected ultrasonically within its city hall.

Credits: Video of Bill Fontana's interview from Culture Wire.