[spectre] Networked_Music_Review: Interview with Bill Fontana

Turbulence turbulence at turbulence.org
Thu Nov 1 22:53:19 CET 2007

Interview with Bill Fontana [excerpt]
by Peter Traub

Bill Fontana has been creating musical networks and making "sound
sculptures" since the early 1970s. His works are usually large in scale and
often involve the transmission of sounds from one 'listening' location with
a network of microphones and/or sensors to another location where the sounds
are overlayed onto the local sonic environment. Fontana's work focuses
strongly on the idea of listening as a compositional act - that is, it is
driven by the idea that music surrounds us constantly and that the patterns
of music are audible if we just take the time to listen...

Peter Traub: Natural sound is central to many of your pieces, especially the
use of natural sound transplanted or displaced (or "trans-placed" as Anthony
Moore termed it) into urban or man-made settings, such as your 1987 piece,
"Sound Sculptures through the Golden Gate". The displacement and
recontextualization of these sounds within new spaces is part of what makes
your work effective. In the process of displacing the natural sounds, how do
you treat them? That is, do you do any sort of processing on the sounds to
transform them, do you prefer that they speak for themselves?

Bill Fontana: There is no processing applied to the sounds except the
artistic choice of putting a microphone near it or to map it. All my editing
takes place before the recording or transmission is made. The transformation
occurs in the re-contextualization of the sound. "Sound Sculptures through
the Golden Gate", with its combination of vivid sea bird sounds and the deep
musical tones of the Golden Gate Bridge Fog Horns has a musical quality that
is almost Wagnerian. Many compositional details, such as how the placement
of 8 microphones on different parts and dimensions of the Bridge would
reveal natural acoustic delays was a type of acoustic processing that was
deliberately chosen..

Bill Fontana will be answering reader's questions in the comments section
until December 6, 2007. Read the complete interview here:

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