Sonambients - The Sound Sculpture Of Harry Bertoia
Sonambients: The Sound Sculpture of Harry Bertoia is a deluxe CD/DVD package containing historic recordings made in Harry Bertoia's Sonambient barn.
The DVD, a film titled Sonambients: The Sound Sculpture of Harry Bertoia, by Jeffrey & Miriam Eger, was shot in 1971 and follows Harry Bertoia in performance and interview throughout his Sonambient barn deep in the Pennsylvania woods. This film offers a rare opportunity to follow the artist in practice, listening carefully as he moves contemplatively through his sculptures and gongs. Interview footage offers rare insight into Bertoia's inspiration and process.
A separate CD contains four exclusive, recently discovered audio recordings. Included are the two earliest known collaborative tapes from Harry and brother Oreste, morning and evening sessions dated October 12, 1969, as well as a collaboration between the Bertoia brothers and their sister Ave who sings in careful unison with the overtones being produced by the sculptures. With the passing of Oreste Bertoia in 1972, these recordings mark the last meeting of all three Bertoia siblings.
A 16-page booklet includes many never before seen production stills shot by Jeffrey Eger. These iconic images capture the essence of the artist in practice. All of this is packaged in a heavy duty, tip-on style, gatefold sleeve printed with metallic inks at Stoughton Printing in California.
A limited edition version of this release, containing a letterpress printed limitation card and a piece of film from the original release can be obtained through the Harry Bertoia Foundation.
Making the film Sonambients: The Sound Sculpture of Harry Bertoia by Jeffrey Eger:
Miriam and I heard through a distant friend of an acquaintance that Harry Bertoia, a Pennsylvania artist, designer and sculptor wished to have a film made about his recent sound sculpture work. We called Harry in November of 1970 and within a week met him in his studio where he introduced us to his sculpture and to his sounds.
We ate lunch in a diner and talked about the songs of whales and wolves and his Sonambients. We then visited his Soundings Barn where everything we learned about film and its visionary possibilities became crystal clear. We absorbed the sound ambience and left with such a bubbling excitement that we knew that it was written in the stars that we would make this film.
Within a week we spoke to Harry and he was convinced that we were the right people to bring his Sonambient world to the screen.
I sent Harry a one page description of how we would shoot the film and hopefully how the film would look. He loved the one page treatment. And he reminded us that he did not want to see himself welding in the movie.
By early January 1971 we were ready to descend on the barn in Barto. We arrived with our cameraman and sound man. The interior of the barn was freezing. We set up quartz lights, checked out shots, and rigged nine hanging microphones from the loft. We had determined that in order to allow Harry to fully improvise his movement amidst the rows of sculptures, we would shoot ten minute takes without any interruptions.
In this way the cameraman would shoot handheld a continuous flowing performance. The Eclair 16mm camera and Nagra tape recorder were connected by crystal sync which was a relatively new improvement over actual cables connecting camera and recorder. Harry would be free to move unencumbered wherever the creative moment took him.
We were all ready to roll. Then the sound man took off his headphones and told us that there were occasional popping sounds on the sound track. We replayed the sound test. Popping sounds with little echoes. We city folk were baffled. Harry Bertoia with acute country sound hearing said, "Hunting season. Deer Hunting season. There is nothing we can do about it. We have to wait until hunting season was over."
A month later in the middle of February of 1971, we returned without the sounds of distant shots and echoing recoil. It took us two days to shoot the whole film. About two hours of footage edited down to a final sixteen minutes.
A month later we returned with a final cut and sound mix. With a rented a 16mm projector, we screened the film for Harry on a bed sheet hung from the rafters of his studio. He loved it and did not want one frame to be changed. And to paraphrase Robert Frost, "and that has made all the difference."
Jeffrey Eger, April 9, 2016