Bill Fontana’s River Sounding at Somerset House


Bill Fontana’s River Sounding is a walk-through sound installation. Admission is free. It’s open on seven days a week. Thursdays until 8pm, other days till 6pm. It will close on May 31st. And it gets you to an interesting and normally hidden corner of historic London, right under the courtyard of Somerset House.

Sound and Music and the Somerset House Trust have commissioned Bill Fontana (who bears an uncanny resemblance to one of the greats of British jazz photography David Redfern) to bring to life the resonances and the history of Somerset House through sound. This is what Fontana does, it’s his shtick. I asked him if he ever worked with improvisers :

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“What I do is a kind of improvisation,” he said. Discuss.

Some years ago he had an installation in the Arc de Triomphe playing sounds of the sea in Normandy.

Want to read more? For those with long attention spans, here’s an essay. Or just try the short explanatory video above.

There are sounds of bells- a bell-buoy, the bell on Southend pier, the bell in the clock tower of Somerset House. There are sounds of running water.

Right under the courtyard in what is called the Dead House. I found myself this morning in a pitch dark alcove with just a massive speaker pushing out bass frequencies, and a piece of superfluous piece of Somerset House balustrade for company.

More details on opening etc are HERE. There are quite a few steepish steps. People who might find them tricky should ring 020 2845 4600. I think this is going to get quite popular. And please don’t tell too many people that the Courtauld Gallery has a nice basement cafe.

Categories: miscellaneous

2 replies »

  1. Fontana did this with the Tyne Bridge acc. by Tim Garland and Asif Sirkis at the Sage, Gateshead last July.
    To each his own…

  2. Sounds intriguing – and has made me look to plan a detour via Somerset House. Thanks for the post.

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