by Bill Fontana


Media Presentation


Above Sonic Shadows


Sonic Shadows in the Oculus of SFMOMA


Echoes Made Visible - A site specific dance performance


"What ambient sounds does the museum generate? San Francisco–based sound art pioneer Bill Fontana has spent more than forty years investigating the musicality of the natural and built environment. He is fascinated by the hidden acoustical worlds of structures such as bridges, which are alive with sounds that are normally inaudible. Commissioned by SFMOMA in honor of the museum’s 75th anniversary, Sonic Shadows uses a network of high-tech vibration sensors and speakers to transform central features of this building into musical instruments, creating a live acoustic translation of the architectural space surrounding the fifth-floor pedestrian bridge.


Speakers installed in the ventilation holes above the bridge are paired with moving ultrasonic speakers below whose narrowly focused audio beams reflect off of the surrounding surfaces, creating what the artist describes as a transparent, acoustic wall drawing in which “the shapes of the architecture become sound.” As visitors cross the bridge their footsteps contribute to the live composition. Exploring the internal resonance of structural elements, the piece mixes real-time recordings of sounds produced by the bridge, the walls, and the pipes in the boiler room hidden behind the opposite wall. Whereas some of the artist’s past sound sculptures integrated recognizable sounds from nature or urban locations, this site-specific piece transforms more abstract, mechanical noises into an ever-changing dreamscape complemented by shifting patterns of sunlight and shadows. Fontana activates this transitional, non-gallery space, producing an immersive sensory experience of the museum itself".

Rudolf Frieling, Curator of Media Arts



Hearing Architecture - A Review in the Disabilities Studies Quarterly


Radio Feature about Sonic Shadows at SFMOMA on the Unobserved, a radio magazine


Radio Feature on KALW Crosscurrents


KQED California Report