Martyn Ware, who made his name with bands Heaven 17 and Human League, is to transform the Millennium Bridge into a “sound installation” designed to tell the story of London and its people. He urged the authorities to invest in more projects to make the city more “beautiful”.
“Making music was about pushing things forward,” Ware said. “Urban soundscaping is now becoming increasingly more important. It’s like the music got stuck in a rut and this is pushing us forward.”
Ware was called in by the Mayor of London’s office to create Tales from the Bridge, which will play stories and poems recorded over a soundtrack of electronic music. He said the work would be “part educational, part entertainment and part hypnotic”.
The project, which runs from next Friday to September 9, is part of a programme of free events and installations across the city during the Olympic Games.
Ware has been working on “urban interaction projects” for more than a decade, and was recommended to the Mayor’s office after an installation in Leicester Square.
The original plan was to make the Millennium Bridge into a “huge musical instrument” for visitors to play, but it was stymied over fears that too many people would congregate on the bridge.
Instead those working on the project have run speakers along the site playing ambient music and different stories on a one hour loop. “There is historical and geographic meaning is brought by the old and new works,” Ware said.
Ware teamed up with artistic director David Bickerstaff to create the sound piece. The narratives were written by poet Mario Petrucci and read by Mia Austen and Steven Alexander. The stories were compiled from local anecdotes, works of poetry and facts and figures.
The project will also see people trigger sounds as they walk over the bridge. Boris Johnson said London’s story “is one of dynamic change” adding the work “provides an evocative soundtrack to the sights, the sounds and the people who have passed through these streets”. The organisers are expecting 4 million people to pass over the bridge while the installation is running.
Ware formed Heaven 17 in 1980, and as a record producer and artist has featured on records that have sold 50 million copies around the world. The group is to tour later this year.
He said sound installations were on the rise. “It has taken a lot longer than I had anticipated, but it is really gaining momentum. Sound works are more popular now.”
Ware’s next installation project will be with the Noise Abatement Society to look at better ways they can use sound “to improve the local environment”. He said, such a work had helped diffuse tensions at a notoriously fractious nightspot in Brighton.
He said: “Soundscapes in urban environments are becoming increasingly considered in new projects.”
The cultural events and artworks It can only be a good thing, there should be more permanent and semi-permanent installations, and not just sound ones. “It is just beautiful for the city. London can be a harsh place at times,” he said.