Sea la vie

Charles 5 Comments

From the Guardian, 1 July 2011:

For three soothing weeks in autumn, the endless roaring traffic on London’s Euston Road, one of the most choked and grime-polluted in the capital, will have competition: the sound of waves breaking and pebbles crunching, relayed live from Chesil beach in Dorset and wrapped in a sound sculpture around the Wellcome Collection building.

Ken Arnold, head of public programmes at the Wellcome, said: “Bill Fontana [who created the installation called White Sound] brilliantly confuses our sense of where we are and what we are experiencing. Just by closing our eyes he manages to turn one of Europe’s nosiest and most polluted roads into a live seascape. It will be fascinating to see how the public responds to the English Channel crashing on to the Euston Road outside the Wellcome Collection.”

Fontana is based in San Francisco, but has installed sound sculptures all over the world, including filling the Arc de Triomphe in Paris with the sound of waves crashing on the D-Day landing beaches on the Normandy coast.

He has already used Chesil beach in a piece for the Maritime Museum at Greenwich, south London, where visitors are surprised to encounter the sound of waves welling up from the grass as they walk along the path to the landlocked museum devoted to the history of the sea.

It’d make a nice backdrop for ‘silent reflection’ in funeral services — or for a committal, especially for a sea-lover. As Sue Gill said on this blog a fortnight or so ago: 

A text that really resonates for me is from John F. Kennedy’s book The Sea which he wrote in 1962:  ‘ I really don’t know why it is that all of us are so committed to the sea. I think it’s because we all came from the sea. It is an extremely interesting biological fact that all of us have in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean. And therefore we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean, and when we go back to the sea we are going back from whence we came.’


  1. Charles

    Great idea for reflection or the committal. Many families have said to me, ‘He loved the sea.’ And it often is the men, whether beach-combing, Royal Navy, Merchant Navy, sailing boats or fishing.

  2. Charles

    Lovely idea. Curiously, it was also at Chesil beach that I first heard silence. I have sought it ever since and never found it.

  3. Charles

    This is a wonderful idea for a funeral – similarly, for landlubbers who have a real connection to a rural landscape and for whom there isn’t any obvious choice of music, I sometimes suggest the sound of birdsong. Our nearest crem has recordings of birdsong made locally, and it is wonderfully soothing as people gather, or to use for a time of quiet reflection – sometimes people look around to see where the birds are singing from!

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