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River Sounding

GEMMA DE CRUZ:  The presence of ‘sound art’ in contemporary museums has always felt thin on the ground.  It’s not visual and it’s definitely not intended to be ‘music’ in any conventional sense. But, considering such a contemporary genre is moving along steadily, it’s pretty surprising how few exhibitions have been devoted to sound art, or sound artists, in London.  The first major show was Sonic Boom, at the hayward, back in 2000, while Oxford's Modern Art put on Audible Light and the best recent offering was Céleste Boursier-Mougenot's finches interacting with electric guitars, at the Barbican’s Curve Gallery.

In River Sounding at Somerset House, Bill Fontana has filled the building's subterranean, disused caverns with sounds of the Thames, recorded over several months. Fontana has used projections and audio to unite these closed off-spaces (formerly coal storage bunkers) with the public. While Somerset House may not be the most cutting edge space in London, in this instance it's the perfect situ for a work like this. In River Sounding, Fontana shows that the best aspect of any sound art show is that it isolates the everyday noise that saturates the world around us and gives it a space to exist independently. How those sounds are re-presented to the viewer’s senses is what determines the success of the work.

Somerset House have tied in a series of talks to River Sounding with appearances from Ian Sinclair, William Raban and the like. This Thursday is the turn of installation artist and musician Richard Wilson who will revisit the Bow Gamelan’s performances on the Thames.  The Bow Gamelan ensemble comprised of P. D. Burwell, Richard Wilson and Ann Bean and a collection of found objects and handmade instruments.  Book now. http://shop.somersethouse.org.uk/product/Events/River-Sounding-Talks-/173

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