Pounding on History: Joseph Bertolozzi Literally Plays the Eiffel Tower


I recall a video from the 90s featuring percussionist David van Tieghem manically going down a street in Manhattan playing pretty much every object in his reach (fire plugs, phone booths, etc.) and that serves to create my mindset for the understanding the present recording.  Now this recording is more site specific and all music is site specific in the sense that each performance is unique by virtue of the acoustics, the time/day of the performance, the audience, etc. but this recording is pretty unique.  I mean, this band can’t travel.

Following in the spirit of R. Murray Schaefer’s huge environmental concepts, Pauline Oliveros’s deep listening ideas and even inspiration from David van Tieghem and perhaps the wild energy of Han Benink as well this is album is actually a sort of sequel to a previous effort, 2009’s Bridge Music (written for/on the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Bridge).  I have not heard the former album but the compositional techniques appear to have been similar in both the former and present album.  He explores the sounds he can make with various mallets and samples them into a computer for later use.


What prevents this Tower Music from becoming ordinary is the extraordinary inventiveness of his Bertolozzi‘s compositions.  This is not just a catalog of “where I’ve banged the tower” but rather a loving sound portrait derived from the sonic possibilities of a major architectural landmark making creative use of the famed tower’s utterances unleashed by the composer/performer’s experiments.  Having found and extracted a huge catalog of tuned and untuned sounds from months of experimentation and recording the composer has assembled a very interesting set of pieces that hold the attention well.

There are ten tracks in total, the last being an audio tour of the Eiffel Tower (without pounding).  The musical tracks run from 49 seconds to about 11 minutes and all are given fanciful titles sometimes related to the area being played.

In addition to being a set of compositions it is also a sort of sonic portrait unique as DNA to the structure from which it has been extracted and upon which it is played.  One can envision an ongoing project of more such sonic portraits.  It works on both these levels. There are plans for live performances in the works at the time of this recording’s publication..

Leave it to Innova in their ongoing search for the mavericks.  They have found one here. This appears to be a labor of love from it’s conception to it’s recording and presentation here including the package design and liner notes.  And now who knows what other structures are laying about with sonic possibilities yet to be heard?