PANORAMIC ECHOES

by

BILL FONTANA

 

Madison Square Park , New York, March 21 to May 1, 2007

This project is commissioned by the Madison Square Park Conservancy

 

 

 

 

Panoramic Echoes will use sound to create a perception of architectural scale that correlates to the visual topography of  high buildings surrounding Madison Square Park. It will be a spatial composition with palpable layers of environmental sounds that will move, float, and echo above the park’s predominant sonic background of traffic noise. It will quietly emerge from a rooftop and quickly or slowly make a panning journey above the park, and then fade to silence. It will emerge and fade out again and again from different rooftops, for changing durations, and always returning to the natural silence of the park, which is traffic noise. It will penetrate the Park’s noise envelope with environmental sounds that will have a magical presence by virtue of their kinesthetic relationship of being perceived at ground level as coming from above.

 

 

A unique loudspeaker technology will be utilized to realize this idea, Meyer Sound’s parabolic speaker, the SB-1, or Sound Beam.  This speaker has the physical scale of a large spotlight and is designed to create directional beams of sound that are projected long distances.  In the case of this sound sculpture, two are placed on the 16th floor of a  building on Broadway across from the park,  one is on a 14th floor balcony of the New York Life Building and one is high on the rooftop of 11 Madison Park.  Despite the large physical size of these speakers, they are not visible from the park and  the  descending soundscapes they create  float and echo above the park.

 

 

This sound sculpture will reactivate the quarter hour ringing of the Westminster Chimes from the top of the Met Life Tower. This was the tallest building in the world between 1909 and 1913, and the design of this tower was inspired by the Campanile di San Marco in Venice. These clock bells had counted the passage of time for more than 80 years and had unfortunately become silent in recent times.   This sound sculpture  places live microphones on each of the four bells that transmit the sound to a mixing system that controls the four parabolic rooftop speakers around the park.  The live strokes from these bells are fed into a real-time composition that causes a cascading series of echoes and delays to create a multi-dimensional acoustic interaction with Madison Square Park.

 

Video Documentary on Panoramic Echoes by Ara Ayer, 2007

 

Interview with Bill Fontana about Panoramic Echoes

 

Interview with Bill Fontana on WNYC Sound Check

 

"Sculpting a New York Park in Sound" by Margot Adler for All Things Considered on NPR

 

Review by Artinfo.com

 

New Yorker Magazine Talk of the Town

 

Meyer Sound Labs on "Panoramic Echoes"

 

Light and Sound America