Harry Bertoia - No Date Tapes - C60 Cassette
Your purchase directly supports the preservation of Harry Bertoia's Sonambient archive.
No Date Tapes is the first official cassette release from Harry Bertoia's tape archive and it contains two of the longest recordings yet discovered, each over 30 minutes. This cassette is packaged in a gold shell and produced on super-ferro tape for incredible analog sound. First printing of 100 copies.
Both sessions on this cassette are sourced from a collection of Bertoia tapes that were found without dates. While it's unknown when these pieces were recorded, the artist's notes are included on the packaging so it's clear how he felt about these recordings. These pieces were selected, in part, because of the contrasting opinions Bertoia had for each session.
Side A was considered by the artist to be a "good performance" which was "rich in variety" and had "good structure and fine tonality." This particular tape has aged quite well and provides clear audio insights into the sonic territory that Bertoia pioneered.
Side B provides a fascinating sonic contrast to side A. The artist's notes suggest that he was pleased with some tonalities but the composition was "not properly developed" and contained, in Bertoia's words, "too much music."
It's our hope that by releasing pieces like this, paired with the artist's own notes, an attentive listener can gain insight into the processes that determined the outcome of the artist's work. What does Bertoia mean by "too much music?" What is the tonality being pursued? What type of compositional structure did he find to be appealing?
These are some of the questions we're attempting to answer as we digitize and release the pioneering sonic sculpture of Harry Bertoia.
Harry Bertoia first gained some artistic visibility in the early 1940s, then came into prominence with his sculptural, ergonomic chairs, produced by Knoll Furniture beginning in 1952, which quickly became classics of modernist furniture. Inspired by the resonant sounds emanating from metals as he worked them and encouraged by his brother Oreste, whose passion was music, Harry restored a fieldstone "Pennsylvania Dutch" barn as the home for this experiment in sounding sculptures which he had begun in the late 1950s. Bertoia was an obsessive composer and relentless experimenter, often working late into the night and accumulating hundreds of tapes of his best performances; Oreste, too, would explore and record the sculptures' sounds during his annual visits to his brother's home in rural Pennsylvania.
Harry Bertoia's recently dismantled Sonambient barn collection was an attentive listener's paradise full of warm, expressive instruments that were gorgeous visually and audibly. Nothing could prepare you, even on return visits, for the overwhelming experience of entering the spacious wood and plaster interior where gongs, some of them giant, hung among the ranks of standing sculptures of various metals. Over nearly twenty years of adding, culling and rearranging, Bertoia carefully selected nearly 100 harmonious pieces ranging in height from under a foot to more than fifteen feet. He considered this barn a full experience, sights and sounds comprising not a collection of works, but one piece unto itself. It was here, deep in the woods, that his Sonambient recording work took place.
Learning by experimentation was common for Bertoia and he mastered the art of tape recording, turning the Sonambient barn into a sound studio with four overhead microphones hanging from the rafters in a square formation. He would experiment with overdubbing by performing along to previous recordings, sometimes backwards, constantly improving his methods while also honing his performance skills. Bertoia was a careful editor of his own work and only chosen recordings remained, each with a date and carefully considered observations written on a note included with each tape. Through these pieces of paper a the artist's logic can be uncovered, a careful approach to composition, ideas, feelings and forms. The story of Sonambient barn collection will slowly be told through the release of recordings from the archive as well as installations and performances built from Bertoia's own recordings, lectures and a book.