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Last Updated: Monday, 8 March, 2004, 13:00 GMT
Big Ben becomes sound sculpture
St Stephen's tower holds the Big Ben bell
The tower containing Big Ben is world-famous landmark
US artist Bill Fontana has transformed the famous chimes of London's Big Ben into a unique sound sculpture.

Fontana recorded the workings of the Westminster bells from unusual places inside St Stephen's Tower, including the ventilation chimney.

The acoustics are then played as a live soundtrack to passers-by from the bottom of the tower, every 15 minutes.

Fontana, who used to be a composer, has been recording and relaying unusual sounds as art since the late 1960s.

"The bells are from some places where most people would never dream of hearing the bells, like an old ventilation chimney that goes from the top of Big Ben to the bottom, there's a wonderful resonance in that space," Fontana told BBC Radio Five Live on Monday.

The Speeds of Time sculpture has been commissioned by the Houses of Parliament's works of art committee.


Fontana has previously created other sound sculptures including Sound Island at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris in 1994.

The live sound of the sea from Normandy was broadcast to 48 loudspeakers hidden on the facade of the monument, creating the illusion that the cars circling the place de l'Etoile were silent.

He recently used the sounds of a wind turbine and the mechanisms of the town hall clock in Leeds to create a sculpture called Primal Soundings at the City Art Gallery.

The BBC's Lawrence Pollard
"The bells are from some places where people would never dream of hearing bells"

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