Pedestrians crossing the Millennium Bridge during the Olympic and Paralympic Games this summer will find themselves on the receiving end of a "sonic experience" which tells the story of London and its people.
Martyn Ware and David Bickerstaff have produced Tales from the Bridge, a three-dimensional soundscape across the length of the bridge featuring an hour-long looping immersive ambient electronic musical composition merged with an spoken narrative written by the poet Mario Petrucci and voiced by Mia Austen and Steven Alexander, and the Water Night by Eric Whitacre.
The piece was commissioned by the Mayor of London Boris Johnson who said: "From Saxon times to Londinium and Shakespeare's city to our present day metropolis, London's story is one of dynamic change.
"With the magnificent Thames as the constant that flows through that great history, Tales from the Bridge provides an evocative soundtrack to the sights, the sounds and the people that have passed through these streets.
"With a wonderful poem and amazing invisible choir, it will be an inspirational part of the celebrations we are hosting across the city throughout the summer."
Petrucci was invited by Bickerstaff and Ware to produce a collection of written passages assembled from literary forms such as short poems, atmospheric descriptions, local anecdotes, facts and figures.
These passages were collated by Petrucci into a script, then woven into the three-dimensional soundfield by Martyn Ware.
At the start of each hour an invisible 3,746-voice strong choir featuring singers from 73 countries – Eric Whitacre's Virtual Choir – will perform Water Night based on a short poem by Octavio Paz.
A webcam mounted on the City of London School monitors footfall at various points on the bridge, triggering sounds which will flow back and forth across the river. Visitors will therefore be able to participate in this constantly changing work.
Tales from the Bridge can be heard daily until Sunday 9 September between 8am and 10pm.
Temporary planning permission has been granted by Southwark Council despite concerns raised by Bankside residents including the Dean of Southwark and those living at Falcon Point.
In granting permission the council said: "The speakers constitute a development which the local planning authority would not normally approve on a permanent basis, in view of the harm such a permanent installation would have on the nearby residential amenity, appearance of the Millennium Bridge and setting of the nearby listed buildings."
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