Important Records have announced the forthcoming release of a complete edition of the sonambient sound sculpture recordings of Harry Bertoia, to coincide with the artist, designer and sculptor’s centenary in March 2015.
Bertoia started out as a jewellery and furniture maker, but in his later years he produced hundreds of sound sculptures, many of which still reside at his former estate at Bally in Pennsylvania. Bertoia was born in Italy but studied in Detroit’s Cranbrook Academy of Art, where he encountered furniture designers Ray and Charles Eames, and the success of Bertoia’s famous diamond chair – which he said was "mainly made of air, like sculpture" – enabled him to pursue deeper interests in sculpture, space and sound in the decades that followed.
Bertoia recalled in interviews how he wished as a youngster there were musical instrument that anyone could play instantly, and his sound sculptures – typically constructed of metal rods, pins and dishes – fulfilled this purpose. Some would interact with the wind and weather, others would be playable by hand, and Bertoia would play them for hours in his converted barn space, exploring their ever-changing range of tones, drones and resonances.
Rather than selling the instruments, Bertoia recorded them, and privately pressed a series of 11 records he described as "sonambient" before his death in 1978. These discs have never been reissued in their entirety, and Important plan to release all 11 releases together as a CD box set in March 2015, alongside an extensive book of images from the Bertoia estate.
A brand new video with footage of many of Bertoia's sound sculptures has just been put online.