Bill Fontana – Field Recordings of Natural Sounds

Bill Fontana - Field Recordings of Natural Sounds LP front cover
Bill Fontana - Field Recordings of Natural Sounds LP back cover
Bill Fontana - Field Recordings of Natural Sounds LP side A

Just like Bill Fontana‘s sound installations often displaced sounds from one location to an other (like Kirribilli Wharf, 1976 ; Brooklyn Bridge, 1983 ; Golden Gate Bridge, 1987), the recordings on this LP transplant environmental sounds into the listener’s home, thus creating the feeling of estrangement typical from Fontana’s other works.

♫ As opposed to other field recordists like Paul Schwartz, Jean-C. Roché or Boris Nikolayevich Veprintsev, Fontana obviously used a number of microphones and careful studio mixing to achieve a wide soundstage and complex, multilayered soundscapes. As a consequence, in these field recordings, some sounds seem to come from far away yet are heard very clearly – in #2, for instance. Somehow like in Michael Snow’s film La Région Centrale, the spectator is afforded a 360° view of the landscape, as well as an incredible level of details. In this regard, these field recordings sound like no other.

01 The Mating Dance of Sage Grouse near Mammoth Lake California (5:22)
02 Multi-Channel Recording of a Woodpecker and Other Birds on a Lake in the Adirondack Mountains (6:44)
03 Spring Peepers in the Adirondack Mountains (4:30)
04 Birds along a Rivers Edge in a Chaparral South of Monterey (5:23)
05 Birds in a Rainforest in Southeastern Australia (12:30)
06 Waves Breaking on Rocks along the Northeast Australian Coast (8:22)

Total time 42:51
LP released by Sierra Club, San Francisco, CA, 1983


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Bill Fontana discography up to 1983:
1978 Sound Sculpture: Bill Fontana, National Gallery of Victoria, EMI Limited, Melbourne, Australia
1982 Landscape Sculpture With Fog Horns , KQED-FM, San Francisco
1983 Klangsituationen In Berlin (10 Aufnahmen), cassette, Edition Giannozzo, Berlin
Sounds Of The Bay Area, KQED-FM, San Francisco
1983 Field Recordings Of Natural Sounds, Sierra Club, San Francisco

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6 Responses to “Bill Fontana – Field Recordings of Natural Sounds”

  1. 1 MDW February 20, 2012 at 9:03 am

    Thank you so very much! Do you have any of his other works aside from Landscape Sculpture or Ohrbrücke/Soundbridge?

  2. 2 continuo February 20, 2012 at 9:09 am

    I have several Fontana CDs and books which won’t appear here.
    I posted the unreleased sound installation Arche Sonore (1994) back in 2007.

  3. 3 peter February 21, 2012 at 11:59 pm

    thanks. looking forward to these.

  4. 4 continuo February 22, 2012 at 12:07 am

    Thanks for your comment. Hope you’ll enjoy this record.

  5. 5 Jim February 22, 2012 at 12:52 am

    Thanks for posting this, I didn’t even know it existed.

    It’s funny, the strongest memory I have of Fontana’s work is completely outside his normal range — a performance at 80 Langton Street in SF in April 1981. He sat on the floor at one end of a suspended aluminum pipe, striking it rhythmically with a small mallet, and two assistants, each with two microphones, slowly moved in and out of the various resonance points along the length of the pipe, sending a wash of constantly-shifting overtones to the PA. One of the most amazing pieces of drone-work I’ve ever been in a room with. I really liked Landscape Sculpture with Foghorns when he did it the next year (it was originally an installation, in the park alongside City Hall), but I’ve always had a taste in the back of my mouth that what I really wanted a record of was that earlier mode.

  6. 6 continuo February 22, 2012 at 9:55 am

    Hi, Jim, thanks for the nice comment. The performance you mention reminds me Peter Van Riper’s work on metal resonances in New York in the late 1970s-early 1980s.

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