Bill Fontana: Panoramic Echoes
The challenge of siting sound art in an urban park lies in the necessity for the art to coexist with the high level of ongoing dissonance. Bill Fontana’s Panoramic Echoes finds the cacophony of the park to be a catalyst as ever-present traffic becomes a background for layered sounds that move, float, and echo above Madison Square Park. Fontana, a pioneer in sound art, supervised installation of Meyer Sound SB1 Sound Beam speakers in buildings around the park. The speakers, invisible to parkgoers, project direct sound waves that rise and fall in changing durations. Fontana also revives the historic Westminster chimes of the MetLife Building, one of the largest four-dial clocks in the world. Its bronze bells were installed in 1909 when the tower boasted the title of the world’s tallest building. Until 2001, like London’s Big Ben, they tolled on the quarter-hour from 8 AM to 10 PM, and, like a bell tower at the University of Cambridge, played a melody from Handel’s Messiah. Fontana revives a cherished aural feature of park life. In his composition, these veteran chimes join with contemporary technology to create an immersive experience that mixes historic sound with current sound.