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Releasing the music in the Golden Gate Bridge

24 April 2012

Using accelerometers, microphones, speakers and amplifiers - for uses that their designers surely never foresaw - composer Bill Fontana has been making sound art since the 1970s.

Trained as a composer, he soon found an interest in the physics of sound, and in the music inherent in the sounds of everyday life, as well as the developing world of modern music that uses sounds created with technological means.

Since then, his innovative vision has become internationally renowned through critically acclaimed installations all around the world. Big Ben, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the Arc de Triomphe are just some of the celebrated locations to have had their pulses felt by Bill as he sets out to show us the music that exists within both structures and everyday sounds.

Speaking in February 2012, Bill was beginning work on the next great creation, wiring up San Francisco’s vast landmark with accelerometers to celebrate its 75th anniversary. When his installation ‘opens’ in May this year, it will be Bill’s second project featuring the famous bridge. The first, in 1981, was a live replay of sounds like deep, booming foghorns from different parts of the bridge, as well as a nearby seabird refuge.

This time though, he’s more interested in the vibrations. “I really want to release that inner sound,” he says. “I have been climbing all over the bridge with some signal analyzers and having fun testing it out for the installation. It’s an alive structure, and tapping into that is very exciting. Putting an accelerometer on either side of an expansion joint on the bridge sounds great, almost like something that chimes.”

“My favourite Brüel & Kjær product is a charge amplifier,” says Bill. “It runs on batteries when necessary, and I like that when you connect a charge accelerometer to it you have so much control over the accelerometers.”

Alongside plenty of other equipment, his Charge Amplifier Type 2635 stands out due to the great control it gives over the signal you get. With input for transducers like accelerometers or hydrophones, and an audio output, it can connect structures to a variety of reproduction sources.

“The charge amplifier’s front panel is so precise that it is possible to very accurately alter the sound in very fine adjustments. You have a great deal of control,” he says.

Over the years, Brüel & Kjær equipment has made an appearance everywhere that Bill’s projects have. In addition to the aforementioned hardware, he has used Brüel & Kjær Hydrophones Types 8103 and 8104, as well as some Type 4006 studio microphones bought in 1991.

Read the full article on: www.bksv.com/GoldenGateBridge

For more information, please visit www.bksv.co.uk
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