We recently discovered the underground delights of Somerset House. We're gladly recommending River Sounding, a new sound installation by artist Bill Fontana that covers part of the regular tour, adding an extra aural dimension to murky depths below the building.
Fontana collected audio and video recordings for this installation, from around, above and below the Thames, in remote locations and well-known sections. Somerset House used to open straight onto the Thames via the Great Arch (now the riverside entrance further along from the Walkabout) through which the Naval Board's barge would nip out and along the river to Whitehall. The Thames is back inside with soundscapes in the nooks and crannies of the Lightwells and Deadhouse and it's very atmospheric, as you can imagine.
Start in the courtyard by the fountains are; look for the River Sounding sign and follow them down to the Lightwells. Or enter by riverfront Great Arch and follow the signs to the Stamp staircase. You're free to wander along the River Sounding route, at your own pace and with your own thoughts and reactions.
Unexpected sounds of a bridge's wire cables whistling tensely issue from a gloomy cubby hole; water rushes noisily overhead in the Deadhouse; foghorns boom as you walk around the Lightwells. Video projections are watery images glancing off dark walls; a traffic-choked bridge over the Thames stares out from the far side of the Deadhouse. It's a low-level but nonetheless significant thrill to experience these subterranean parts of Somerset House that are atmospheric enough, further enhanced by Fontana's evocative sound installations. Go, see, hear and check out the programme of talks and screenings to ring out all the highlights of River Sounding.
River Sounding at Somerset House, 10am to 6pm every day, open until 8pm on Thursdays. Free entry, talks and screenings are £3.00. For more information, go to the Somerset House website.