Posted On: March 23, 2011

Bill Fontana Panoramic Echoes

To learn more about Panoramic Echoes, you can visit Bill Fontana’s web site at www.resoundings.org

The Madison Square Park Conservancy announces the launch of Mad. Sq. Art 2007 with a sound sculpture created by Bill Fontana, an internationally recognized innovator in the field of sound art. Mad. Sq. Art is Manhattan’s free outdoor art gallery, presenting new work created for the park by major artists.

Panoramic Echoes is a sound sculpture with palpable layers of environmental sounds that will move, float and echo above the park’s predominant sonic background of traffic noise. The sculpture’s sound 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. In order to present this idea, a unique loudspeaker technology will be utilized: Meyer Sound’s parabolic speaker, the SB-1, or Sound Beam.

Panoramic Echoes will be projected into the north end of the park from speakers located on rooftops of historic buildings around the park. The sound sculpture will interact with the live sounds of the now-silenced chimes of the Metropolitan Life Tower facing the park, once the tallest building in the world. The bells at the top of the tower, which have been silent for more than five years, tolled the hours for park visitors for over eighty years will ring again as part of this sound sculpture.

Bill Fontana has been an innovator in sound art for more than 30 years. Last summer, Bill’s sound sculpture Harmonic Bridge in the Turbine Hall of the Tate Modern transformed live sounds of the Millennium Bridge into evocative art piece. Speeds of Time in 2004, also in London, was based on Big Ben’s bells. The MetLife Tower bells play the same melody as Big Ben, the Westminster Chimes, from a melody from Handel’s Messiah.

The MetLife Tower Clock

The clock of the MetLife Tower is one of the largest four-dial clocks in the world. It is set 346 feet above the street, from where its giant hands seem scarcely bigger than those of an ordinary time piece, although they are measured by foot and their weight runs into the hundreds of pounds.

The MetLife Clock Tower system was installed in 1909, when the tower was the world’s tallest building. From 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., the Westminster Chimes sounded their tuneful rhythm on mammoth bells occupying a position higher from the ground than any other bells in the world. Their weights 7,000, 3,000, 2,000 and 1,500 pounds are tuned to B flat, E flat, F natural and G natural respectively. The handsome bronze bells, still atop the tower (and visible from the ground), were forged by the McNeely Bell Company in Troy, New York, in 1908. Upon these chimes the ancient Westminster Chimes are rung: “O Lord our Guide/ Be Thou our Guide/ That by Thy help/ No feet shall slide.”