U.Va. School of Architecture to Host World-Renowned Sound Artist on Thursday

February 28, 2014

In a rare arts event, Bill Fontana, known internationally for his pioneering experiments in sound art, will lecture Thursday at the University of Virginia’s School of Architecture. His talk, set to begin at 6 p.m. in Campbell Hall, room 158, will explore the meaning and experience of sound in society, culture and urban environments.

The talk is free and open to the public.

In his 40-year career, Fontana’s sound sculptures have used the urban environment as a living source of musical information to inspire visual imagery in the mind of the listener.

The event is sponsored by The Jefferson Trust, an initiative of the Alumni Association, as part of its “Creative Listening Grant” to U.Va.’s Karen Van Lengen, William Kenan Professor of Architecture.

Van Lengen’s ongoing research focuses on the exploration of sound and communication in the public realm. From 1999 to 2009, Van Lengen served as dean of the School of Architecture, where she championed cross-disciplinary education and research to address complex environmental and cultural challenges.

Fontana’s lecture is part of the “Listening to the Lawn” seminar currently taught by Van Lengen and Troy Rogers, a composer/musician/sound artist and doctoral student at the Virginia Center for Computer Music in U.Va.’s McIntire Department of Music.

“Bill Fontana is a seminal figure in the field of sound art, going back to the ’60s and ’70s when he began to explore the aural richness of our built and natural environments,” Van Lengen said. “Using diverse sites and techniques, he has brought sound into the public’s awareness in multiple ways, and in so doing, has revealed the subtle natural and lesser-known aspects of our habitat.” 

Fontana began his career in the late 1960s exploring the new territory of sound art. A student of American composer and music theorist John Cage, Fontana has worked with environment sounds to reveal the hidden characteristics of space and materiality while creating a significant body of new music.

In a recent project, Fontana recorded the sounds of Europe’s Large Haldron Collider in a piece titled “Acoustic Time Travel.” Other legendary projects include the “Soaring Echoes” at the Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park, Chicago; “Harmonic Bridge” at the Tate Modern, London; and “Sound Island” at the Arc de Triomphe, Paris.

Some of his other more famous works include “Distant Trains,” “Satellite Ear Bridge,” “Journey Through My Sound Sculptures,” “The Sound of an Unblown Flute,” “Panoramic Echoes” and “Acoustical Visions of the Golden Gate Bridge.”

The Jefferson Trust awarded Van Lengen a $25,600 grant in 2013 to launch “Creative Listening at the Academical Village,” a cross-disciplinary course between the School of Architecture and the McIntire Department of Music. The purpose of the course is to bring awareness and creative interpretation to the aural qualities of U.Va.’s historic Lawn.

In the course, students develop their own edited soundscapes of the Academical Village to be overlaid onto a series of photos, drawings and animations that convey the qualities and spirit of the Academical Village told through sound and image. 

The course encourages projects that creatively demonstrate the rich aural environment of the Academical Village as a counterpoint to the well-known visual studies already familiar to the public and the University community.

The results of these projects will be included on the “Soundscape Architecture” website, a collaboration between the Institute for Advanced Technologies in the Humanities and the School of Architecture.

Media Contact

Robert Hull

Media Relations Associate Office of University Communications