The sound of melting arctic ice is part of the new Strand audio project


“Working from 100 years of BBC audio… a myriad of new worlds, collapsing time and space in startling and utterly insightful ways.”

Melting Arctic ice, coded messages from foreign intelligence and women broadcasting pioneers will be among the sounds played as part of a new audio installation to mark the BBC’s centenary.

A new public space at Strand Aldwych will host an immersive project sharing archival clips of early radio broadcasts and pre-industrial recordings from central London.

The VoiceLine, by Somerset House Studios, and artist Nick Ryan, will open on December 7 and will be in place for three months, as the first order in the newly revamped site.

It marks the opening of the new public space in the heart of Westminster and celebrates 100 years of operation of the BBC.

39 loudspeakers will cross the 170m space, near Marconi House where the BBC first broadcast in 1922, and visitors will experience voice, sound, music and audio storytelling .

Recordings of melting arctic ice are part of a new immersive audio project. Pictured are icebergs in the Arctic Ocean captured by NASA to measure Arctic sea ice melt. Photo: AFP/Getty

Artist and sound designer Nick Ryan said: “The VoiceLine celebrates the stories of radio and listening that began on the Strand 100 years ago and changed the world.

“I hope the unique sonic instrument I have created will once again identify Strand as an iconic listening destination.”

Robert Seatter, head of BBC history, said: ‘Working from 100 years of BBC audio, Nick conjured up myriad new worlds, collapsing time and space in startling ways and all quite insightful.

“The BBC is delighted to mark its centenary with this rich and exciting work, drawing inspiration from the birth of radio and celebrating the transformative power of audio in all of our lives.”

A new immersive audio project is coming to the Strand to mark the BBC’s centenary. Photo: Claudia Fragoso

Project visitors will hear recordings ranging from:

  • Memories of Bush House, headquarters of the BBC World Service;
  • Recordings from cities around the world and from the forests of Canada;
  • Visions of the future gathered from students at King’s College London;
  • Reconstructions of the Strand’s pre-industrial traffic;
  • BBC Radiophonic Workshop Sound Experiences;
  • And the mysterious utterances of the coded intelligence messages from the “Number Stations.”

Between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., tailor-made sound works will create an evolving sound journey.

The installation came to life through a unique partnership with the BBC, during its centenary, and will engage audiences with radio’s first sounding innovations, the famous voices of news and the nation, and the multitude of languages ​​from the BBC World Service. .

A technician at work at Baird Television Radio at Alexandra Palace, 1936. Photo: Getty

Nick Ryan said: “Over the next 100 years the sound of cities will change beyond recognition and perhaps for the first time we will be able to choose how our public spaces should sound.

“New sound technologies allow us to transform a thoroughfare that for the past 300 years has been known only for the disruptive sound of vehicles into an ever-changing auditory world with immersive sounds of voice, nature and music.”

At over 350m long – four times longer than Leicester Square – the Strand Aldwych space includes corporate headquarters, workstations, a communal dining area, activity lawn and garden room.

Ruth Duston, managing director of the Northbank Business Improvement District (BID), said seeing the project come to life has been “incredibly gratifying”.

The VoiceLine, by Somerset House Studios, and artist Nick Ryan, will open in December. Photo: Claudia Fragoso

And she said the goal of the partnership project was to “ultimately create a space that is welcoming, accessible and hopefully loved by all”.

Jonathan Reekie, Director of Somerset House Trust and Chairman of the Joint Project Committee, said: “We have been delighted to play a leading role with many other local public and private actors in this special partnership to create a new space audience for London.

“It’s a space that will draw on the past and help us shape the future of our great city.

“This intervention dramatically improves air quality and will reveal to locals, Londoners and visitors a vibrant and underappreciated corner of London.”

Geoff Barraclough, of Westminster City Council, said: “In this exciting new destination in Westminster, surrounded by magnificent architecture and deep-rooted history, we are seeing the opening of space for contemporary public culture. in central London.

“An important vision for Strand Aldwych was to create a space for accessible and free art and to allow the creative ideas of neighboring world-renowned institutions to flow into public space.

“The VoiceLine will be the first of many creative ventures to attract visitors to the city and beyond to enjoy Northbank and explore the many other delights nearby.”


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