Renowned Sound Artist Creates Love Letter to Famed San Francisco Neighborhood for New Public Library

Critically acclaimed sound artist Bill Fontana’s soundscape installation for the new North Beach Branch Library captures the spirit of one of San Francisco’s most unique and colorful neighborhoods

Artwork debuts with Library opening celebration on May 10 at 1 p.m.

SAN FRANCISCO, March 25, 2014 – The San Francisco Arts Commission (SFAC) will reveal one of its most unique permanent public artworks to date with the May 10 opening of the new North Beach Branch Library, located at 850 Columbus Avenue. A sound sculpture by internationally acclaimed sound artist Bill Fontana will be installed along the perimeter of the new 8,500-square-foot library. Titled Sonic Dreamscape, the artwork will broadcast sounds collected from the neighborhood such as the tinkling of glass and silverware at local cafes, the squawking of the famously enigmatic Telegraph Hill parrots, the chiming bells of Washington Square Park’s Saints Peter and Paul Church and the reading of a poem by famed beat artist and neighborhood icon Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

“I have been a resident of North Beach since 1999,” said Fontana. “The recordings used in this sound sculpture are an accumulation of 15 years of listening and recording sounds of this neighborhood, which have been a permanent part of my life here. Sonic Dreamscape portrays how the accumulation of these sounds float together in my memory and imagination as a sonic dream.”

The sound will be transmitted from the Columbus-side of the building through eight highly specialized, weatherproof Meyer speakers during the hours of 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. The sound system, which was developed by Meyer Sound in partnership with Fontana, is one of the most high tech and sophisticated systems on the market, which makes it ideal for complex sound-based art installations. The speakers will emit highly directional sounds that will create an evocative dream-like sonic atmosphere as passersby walk along Columbus Avenue. The final mix changes over the course of a day, a month, the seasons, so that visitors to the library will always be surprised by what they hear.

“When people think of artwork at a library, the last thing that probably comes to mind is a sound sculpture,” stated Director of Cultural Affairs Tom DeCaigny. “Sonic Dreamscape is as unique and unexpected as the neighborhood to which it pays tribute. The love that the artist feels for North Beach shines through this artwork, which will enchant and delight passersby and library visitors for years to come.”

According to City Librarian Luis Herrera, “This meaningful and innovative artwork is a perfect complement for our beautiful new library, and the fact that it was created by a North Beach neighborhood resident with a real connection to the community makes it even more special. We are grateful to the Arts Commission and to the artist, Bill Fontana, for bringing this work to fruition.”