Music

London's Tower Bridge is turning into a giant sound sculpture

A unique new sound sculpture taking place in the damp, dark and dirty Bascule Chamber of Tower Bridge highlights the impact of war

The creative industries are diverse, with huge differences in practice between seemingly similar fields, for example, visual art and craft. Even within the same field, there are vastly differing styles and approaches, as seen in multiple stage productions of the same opera or composer responses to the same stimuli. It is what makes creativity so fascinating.

While there has always been collaboration within the arts world, technology – and, perhaps, economic realities – have made intersectionality more prevalent. Enter, the sound sculpture.

Contemporary sound sculptures or installations have their roots in the mid-20th-century avant garde movement, which inevitably leads us to John Cage and his ground-breaking 4’33” (1952) and works for prepared – modified with paper, string and so on – piano (from 1940 onwards). Cage, and futurists like Marcel Duchamp, saw composition as a living experience, so that ‘unmusical’ noises from outside the stage could become part of the art. Sound artists today are taking this a step further by putting the audience at the centre of the work, so that experience becomes fully immersive. This was the case with Bill Fontana’s River Sounding (2010), which used the subterranean passages of London’s Somerset House to take the listener-viewer into a sensory journey. It was an ambitious public artwork that wove the stories of a iconic building together in a way that hasn’t since been repeated in the capital.

Like other immersive experiences, the physical comfort of the audience is not a priority for the creators of Blackout

Now though, the Guildhall School, with support from the City of London Police Museum and London Metropolitan Archives, are bringing a new sound installation to Tower Bridge’s Bascule Chamber. Blackout takes place in the space that houses Tower Bridge’s huge counterweights that are used to raise and lower the moveable sections of the bridge, known as bascules. When Tower Bridge is at rest, this cavernous brick-lined passage is empty. The chamber is usually out of bounds for visitors, but is being opened up for 17 performances from March 23-25. This setting will provide the canvas for video projections created by artists from Guildhall School’s BA in Video Design for Live Performance. (Performances last an hour and take place between 11am and 9pm on the Friday and Saturday, and 11am and 7pm on the Sunday.)

1299_music_embed2

The projections are inspired by the work of two City of London police officers, Arthur Cross and Fred Tibbs, who photographed the damage to the Square Mile during the Blitz. The installation combines these images with sound to explore the impact of the war at Tower Bridge and beyond. Like other immersive experiences, the physical comfort of the audience is not a priority for the creators of Blackout: as an operational space the chamber is damp, dark and dirty – an ideal location for a sculpture of the senses.

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
Bikini Kill star and riot grrrl legend Kathleen Hanna: 'I'd ask my younger self why she was doing meth'
Kathleen Hanna
Letter to my Younger Self

Bikini Kill star and riot grrrl legend Kathleen Hanna: 'I'd ask my younger self why she was doing meth'

Bob Vylan: 'Is it OK for me to cry? As a man you can feel there's not space to be vulnerable'
Bob Vylan
Music

Bob Vylan: 'Is it OK for me to cry? As a man you can feel there's not space to be vulnerable'

Soweto Kinch on ripping up the jazz rulebook and how his new BBC show is building community
Soweto Kinch
Music

Soweto Kinch on ripping up the jazz rulebook and how his new BBC show is building community

Iron Maiden legend Bruce Dickinson: 'You don’t need some rock star saying war is a bad thing'
Bruce Dickinson
Letter To My Younger Self

Iron Maiden legend Bruce Dickinson: 'You don’t need some rock star saying war is a bad thing'

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know