Sound Sculptures

Sound Sculptures is a series of a sonic responses to various sculptures commissioned by the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority's Percent for Art program. In this project audiences are able use their cellphones, smartphones, or mp3 players to listen to the various sound works while at the sculpture's physical locations. It is the aim of the project to explore the ‘living landscape’ of each project's site, bringing a new perspective to the contextual and artistic intensions of the original work.

How It Works

Go to any of the locations marked on the map to the below and you’ll find a poster with a QR code or phone number which, 215-642-2509 once scanned or called, will allow you play a sound piece specific to that sculpture on your phone. Want to take these tracks with you? Simply download the podcast and add it to your iPod or mp3 player.




James Plotkin

Waveforms, Dennis Oppenheim, 2007

34th & Chestnut Streets

Dennis Oppenheim’s early work focused on land and body-based art, and his later work resulted in a series of large, dynamic and sculptural public art projects. His public art projects often featured unexpected variations on familiar forms, such as massively-scaled ‘engagement rings’ with traditionally-shaped homes taking the place of the ring’s stone, or an upended church standing on its steeple.

Description of Art

Waveforms by Dennis Oppenheim is a work of public art that, because of its massive scale and inviting form, bridges the boundary between sculpture and architecture. The sculpture takes the form of stacked 20 foot tall bell shapes constructed out of aluminum tube and perforated metal that invite the public to walk around, under and through the sculpture. The ground surface features stone patterns mimicking the shape of sound wave forms, which creates a visual link between the cluster of bells at 34th & Chestnut Streets and a second cluster located within an open courtyard nearby.

"By taking the visual configuration found in sound waves to structure the plaza garden, I could detour from the more obvious associations brought forth by the Liberty Bell, Philadelphia’s most famous image. By increasing the scale of the bells to approximate architecture, I was able to disturb the association of the bell as 'object' to bell as 'dwelling.'" -Oppenheim


Rosie Langabeer

Connections, Athena Tacha, 1992

Between 18th & 19th Streets, south of Spring Garden

Athena Tacha is a sculptor who is recognized as being one of the first artists to create large-scale site-specific environmental art in the 1970’s. She has created many large public installations including parks, plazas and amphitheaters, which engage the public to collectively experience her art on a large scale. Her works include careful compositions of natural elements that provide viewers with unique views throughout the day and in different seasons.

Description of Art

Connections is an original work of landscape art by Athena Tacha and, with an area that covers an entire city block, is the largest Percent for Art project in Philadelphia. The work, which was created to be the centerpiece of a series of developments in the Franklinton Redevelopment Area, creates a public space that is transformed through Tacha’s artistic intervention. Landscaping, stone terraces, rocks and paths define a number of connections – both real and implied. The work’s title and form back to when the site was the home of the Baldwin locomotive works, which for years was the nation’s leading locomotive manufacturer in the mid-1800’s.

Copper Speaks to Flesh

King Britt

Ars Medendi, Jim Sanborn, 2008

Walnut Street, east of 11th Street

Jim Sanborn is a sculptor whose work is intended to engage viewers in an interactive experience by presenting visually compelling and often mysterious compositions of characters and texts. Some works, such as Ars Medendi, include international texts which may be less familiar to all viewers, thereby offering the chance to appreciate the inherent beauty and grace of the individual characters

Description of Art

Ars Medendi, located within the campus of Thomas Jefferson University, is inscribed with medical texts from throughout history and around the world. The text on the sculpture includes writings from the Green physician/philosopher Claudius Galen, who treated gladiators in the Arena at Pergamon, to French physician Louis Pasteur, to the Egyptian physician Imphotep who was the physician to king Zoser in 2600 BC, to text from the American Edition of Gray’s Anatomy. The cylinder is illuminated at night, projecting the words on the surrounding urban fabric, and acting as a metaphor for the illumination and dissemination of medical knowledge.


Pattie McCarthy

Clothespin, Claes Oldenburg, 1976

15th & Market Street

“There are many things to love in Philadelphia, but the One Percent regulation, the first in the land, which invites the artist to create and become a part of the place, may be the top one from my point of view.” --Claes Oldenburg

Clothespin was the first of Oldenburg’s monumental sculptures to ever be realized. Shortly after, he began collaborating with his wife, Coosje Van Bruggen on creating humorous and insightful public monuments in cities all over the world. Philadelphia has an example of this collaboration, their sculpture Split Button, located on the University of Pennsylvania’s campus

Description of Art

Claes Oldenburg’s Clothespin is perhaps the most iconic work commissioned by the Redevelopment Authority’s Percent for Art program. It has become a civic symbol, landmark, and meeting place for Philadelphians and visitors alike: people often say “Meet me at the Clothespin” and most every Philadelphian knows exactly that that means.

Instead of commemorating any specific place or thing as a typical monument often will,Oldenburg’s Clothespin instead invites the viewer’s interpretation. Some people see it as a study of contrasting materials. Its proximity to City Hall causes others see it as perhaps a statement about joining and tension, or as a comment on authority. Some say that the steel clip forms a commemorative “76” in honor of the Nation’s bicentennial celebration, also the year in which the sculpture was installed.

The Artists

Pattie McCarthy

Pattie McCarthy is the author of four collections of poetry from Apogee Press: bk of (h)rs, Verso, Table Alphabetical of Hard Words, and the forthcoming Marybones (December 2012). She is also the author of the recent chapbook L&O, from Little Red Leaves, and the forthcoming chapbook scenes from the lives of my parents, to be published by Bloof Books in 2013. She teaches literature and creative writing at Temple University and was a 2011 Pew Fellow in the Arts. She lives just outside Philadelphia with her husband, Kevin Varrone, and their family.

King Britt

As a producer/composer, he fuses his knowledge of music history from many cultures and genres with electronic compositions, which redefine and re-contextualizes the past into the present. This is best shown in his work for Preservation Hall’s release King Britt presents Sister Gertrude Morgan, which combined, the gospel evangelist’s vocal recordings from 1970 with contemporary composition. It was this and many other projects from his vast catalog that helped him receive the Pew Fellowship for Composition in 2007. His creativity, always pushing the envelope, as he fuses old technology with new thus developing unconventional compositions in the process. The latest release The Bee and The Stamen, takes him into new sonic territories. Recently remixing Merideth Monk, Saul Williams and King Sunny Ade. King continues to be an important force in the shaping of contemporary music.

James Plotkin

James Plotkin, as a guitarist, bassist and sound arranger/producer, has been at the nexus of extreme and marginal music for over 2 decades. Moving from high impact metal through experimental noise and tingling, metallic ambience, he has worked with Scorn, K.K. Null, John Zorn, Michael Gira, Jon Mueller, Flux, and more recently the disjointed ambience of Lotus Eaters, his own beat-mangling Phantomsmasher project, and the slow metal supergroup Khanate. Plotkin relocated from New York City to Philadelphia in 2010 and has been currently focusing on sound design, production, and engineering, as well as his newest group, Jodis, with Aaron Turner (ISIS, Hydra Head Records). His mastering/remixing credits read like a short list of today's most adventurous artists. He also designs analog electronic devices that are completely handmade from start to finish, and incorporate a less predictable element of chaos to many musician's sonic arsenals.

Rosie Langabeer

Rosie Langabeer has been hanging around in Philadelphia for two years now, involving herself in the creation of art with the likes of Pig Iron Theatre Company, No Face Performance Group, Subcircle and BalletX, She is half of Kensington’s lo-fI pop sensation Totally Super Pregnant and loves playing freely improvised music. In New Zealand Langabeer works in DIY and professional arts and runs a crazy award-winning band called ZIRKUS, featuring many of NZ’s top jazz musicians and a suspiciously humanoid barking dog.


Sound Sculptures was commissioned by the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority (PRA) and was curated and produced by Bowerbird.

The PRA was established in 1945 under Pennsylvania’s Urban Renewal Act. Its purpose is to promote the public’s health, safety and welfare by recycling blighted land and structures into planned and productive uses. The PRA’s Percent for Art Program, the first in the country and established in 1959, provides Philadelphia developers with the opportunity to enhance communities through the commission of original works of public art, now inclusive of public art programming.