Harry Bertoia

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"I don't hold onto terms like music and sculpture anymore. Those old distinctions have lost all their meaning." Harry Bertoia, 1976

Harry Bertoia's Complete Sonambient Collection features all 11 of Bertoia's original records newly restored from their master tapes and housed in replica jackets. A heavy duty box, printed with metallic inks, holds the 11 discs as well as a 100 page book containing a lengthy historic essay, Smithsonian interview with Harry Bertoia, exclusive Sonambient era material from the Bertoia archive, modern and archival photos of the Bertoia barn as well as reflections on Bertoia from David Sefton, Tom Welsh, David Harrington (Kronos Quartet) and all three of Bertoia's children. The Complete Sonambient Collection celebrates 100 years of Harry Bertoia in 2015, the centennial of his birth.

In the late 1950's Harry Bertoia (1915-1978), already a renowned American sculptor, began creating long-form, improvised pieces of music utilizing pure acoustic tones evoked from his sound sculptures. Around this time Bertoia came up with the term "Sonambient" to describe the music and environment created by his tonal sculptures and their lush harmonic overtones. In a renovated barn on his property deep in the Pennsylvania woods Harry curated a harmonious selection of his sculptures and gongs, often recording his frequent, intuitive sound experiments 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 or hear these records himself. Bertoia died in 1978, at age 63, and was buried beneath a giant gong behind his Sonabmient barn.

Bertoia's recordings are as much a celebration of sustained tones, slow decay, healing vibrations and shimmering harmonics as Indian Classical music, singing bowls, The Well Tuned Piano or Benjamin Franklin's glass armonica. Through these rich harmonics, pulsing tones and pure gongs Bertoia was able to more clearly articulate his inner spirit than he could with sculpture alone – a point he made himself many times in interview. Harry's single greatest piece of art is the totality of his life which is nearly impossible to measure but easy to feel. It's our hope that somehow this box set evokes some of the same sacred, personal feeling that one has in Bertoia's barn.

 

 

Resources: 

Bertoia Foundation: http://www.harrybertoia.org/
Bertoia Italy: http://www.arietobertoia.org/
Bertoia Studios: http://www.bertoiasounds.com/
 

REVIEWS

Washington Post feature article by Marc Masters

Sonambient interview Fact  

"This is the real deal, pure art in all manifestations, and it's possibly the quintessential collection of ambient music ever made" Fact Magazine

""When I know a man's sound, that's this man," stated John Coltrane in a 1966 interview. He was speaking of what he called music of the individual, and no better example can be found than sculptor and improviser Harry Bertoia. This massive and expertly documented set encapsulates the work of Bertoia's last 20 years, when he built what he came to call his sonambient sculptures, and there is absolutely no other music like it. " Fanfare 

The Complete Sonambient Collection offers deep listening of the highest order. These are sounds which are as worthy of heavy contemplation as any, but they're even better when you just let go and feel them like so much sand between your toes, as an eternal sound for which there can be no words. The Quietus 

 "One hears not just the rumble and reverberation of stroked gongs, struck metal sheets, or colliding rides, but the dimensions of Bertoia's studio. The experience is not merely sensual, but follows hearing and feeling back to the conscious and unconscious sentiments stirred by them."  Dusted

"The supremely well-curated and tirelessly hard-working Important Records finally present one of the most important and anticipated editions in their enviably impressive catalogue to date, a staggering, lushly packaged box-set with the complete Sonambient Collection, featuring all 11 Bertoia Sonambient releases newly restored from the original master reels." SoundOhm

Frastuoni  (Italian)

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