A blog on gigs, music, art and London.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

'River Sounding', Bill Fontana, Somerset House

A new sound installation by artist Bill Fontana opened at Somerset House last week. It is called ‘River Sounding’ and is the culmination of Fontana painstakingly collecting sounds and images along the entire length of the river Thames. Somerset House’s long relationship with the river Thames makes this an ideal setting for the installation and it all takes place down in the lower levels below the courtyard, usually not open to the public.

Sounds are played via speakers and images are projected onto walls of adjoining rooms. It is a great chance to explore the underground lightwells of Somerset House. I later learned that these small rooms leading off from the lightwells (that currently house the visuals) were originally used to store coal. The lightwells were created to allow natural light to reach the rooms of the lower levels. The centrally located Dead House contains the most atmospheric part of the installation, quiet, darker with water dripping from overhead pipework.

The sounds range from bubbling, rushing water to bassy rumbles and low, hissing hums. Occasionally a bell chimes. A layer of extraneous surface noise sits on top of everything else. A free-flowing, aquatic soundtrack to accompany a visit to one of London's most beautiful buildings.

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