"This is all for the glory of creation." Harry Bertoia
In the late fifties Harry Bertoia began working on long-form improvised compositions by utilizing pure acoustic tones produced using his own pure metal sound sculptures. Bertoia coined the term "Sonambient" to describe the music of his sculptures and the lush overtones they evoked, renovated a barn on his property deep in the PA woods, and often recorded his nightly sessions in the barn using 4 overhead microphones and a 1/4" tape recorder. Bertoia dedicated the last twenty years of his life to his Sonambient work and in 1970 he released the first Sonambient LP. In 1978, in the final months of his life, he selected recordings from his archive and produced 10 more Sonambient records. He would not live long enough to see these records in person.
2015 is the centennial celebration of the birth of Harry Bertoia on March 10, 1915. To celebrate Harry's life and work Important Records Important Records will release a CD box set containing the complete edition of Bertoia's privately pressed Sonambient LPs.
Harry Bertoia's use of the term "Sonambient" to describe both his sculptures and their sound pre-date the term "ambient" being used to describe a form of music. The origins of his Sonambient sculptures are found in his brilliant, early monotypes. It wasn't until 1960 that he began the exploration of these tonal sculptures and then not until the early seventies that he began recording his lengthy concerts. He ritually played his meditative performances in his post and beam barn on 200 acres in Barto, Pennsylvania up in the hills not far away from his Bally, PA studio. It's the sacred, personal feeling one has in Bertoia's barn that we hope to evoke with the packaging and archival materials accompanying these recordings.
"We live in a new age with sounds never before heard. They can be strident, tranquil, violent, fluctuating, depending on the metal, the size of the rods, or the group of the rods. I always feel more drawn to this barn, the changes are omnipresent and every person has the responsibility to find new ways of making things. This is what forms our character. I cannot say that I am not unchangeable. There is a progression in the world. It is part of my role in life to discover this progression."
Harry Bertoia 1978
The works of Harry Bertoia celebrate the bounty of the good earth; shimmering sheafs of golden wheat stalked in endless rows on 'the fruitful plain'; great crashing cataracts, with crystal-pure and steel hard volutes; or the swift, mystic rushing of myriad-rayed comets against the sky's infinity. To suggest so much, by means so simple, is the mark of a great lyrical poet.
Bertoia's sculptures and his sounds are a conceptual string, or literal vibrations, that weave together all of his work. You see the shape of the sound sculptures appear in his mono-prints and suddenly even his famous chairs resonate with sounds when you pluck at them or run a pencil down the lines. Through Sonambient, Bertoia's lifetime of work resonates, echoes, bubbles with overtones and comes alive.
Harry's single greatest piece of art is the totality of his life which is nearly impossible to measure but somehow easy to feel.
The Complete Sonambient Collection will be released on Nov 27, 2015 on Important Records.