Observations: Pick up some good vibrations at these two sonic experiments

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The Independent Culture

Two sonic experiments are not only reshaping the way we hear sound, but also how we might think about it. The architect Zaha Hadid has given classical music-going a chic makeover in Manchester. And in Newcastle, the American sound sculptor Bill Fontana has created a very different kind of sound-check.

Hadid's diaphanous wraparound set for the 192-seat Bach Pavilion at the Manchester International Festival is a ghostly asymmetric spiral whose metal frame is wrapped in Lycra. Her soufflé recalls Renzo Piano's experimental pavilions in Genoa, in 1966, made of reinforced polyester. And in 1982 at the Venice Biennale, Piano designed an ark-like music box for a performance of Nono's Prometeo in San Lorenzo church. What goes around, comes around.

Bill Fontana's Tyne Soundings, which begin tomorrow in the Sage, are about anything but Bach, Nono, or Lycra. "People don't pay attention to the sounds they hear and live with everyday," he says, "and therefore it is not a part of the design of anything to consider the acoustical consequences. This problem is a self-perpetuating cultural blind or deaf spot."

In Britain, Fontana's 2006 Harmonic Bridge sound-sculpture transferred the sounds made inside the Millennium Bridge into Tate Modern's Turbine Hall. In Newcastle, his psycho-acoustic installation takes sounds made by water, weather, cyclists, pedestrians and the foghorn of Souter Lighthouse, recorded locally and treats them as vibrations from a phantom stringed instrument.

Alina Ibragimova plays in Hadid's chamber, tonight & tomorrow (0844 815 4960); Tyne Soundings, tomorrow to 2 August (www.thesagegateshead.org)

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