Vertical Echoes by Bill Fontana: This is audio war

Polly Checkland Harding

Sound artist Bill Fontana brings an incredible, war-enraged audio installation to IWM North.

IWM North has a pretty striking design. On the banks of Manchester Ship Canal three interlocking sections, or shards, have been tessellated to create a building of alternately harsh and fluid beauty. These metal shards each represent a site of turmoil; on land, water and air. And it is in the sky-straining, 55 metre-high space of the Air Shard that Vertical Echoes, a sound installation by composer and sound artist Bill Fontana, will be played out from 1 May – 21 September 2014.

The puttering rumble of a Sopwith Camel Biplane reverberates in IWM North’s tallest shard

Bill Fontana, whose work has found global footholds – in Venice, Abu Dhabi and on San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, for instance – is bringing Vertical Echoes to IWM North as part of the museum’s efforts to commemorate the start of World War One. The sounds of an artillery field gun and the puttering rumble of a Sopwith Camel Biplane – arguably one of the war’s most successful fighter planes, though notoriously tricky to handle – will resonate through IWM North’s tallest shard, creating a kind of sound sculpture.

In a building designed to symbolise a globe shattered by conflict, Vertical Echoes is likely to be a powerful way to experience the engulfing sounds of war. It’s just one way, in an extensive programme of events, to experience a real and immersive reaction to what the centenary of World War One means.

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