Bertoia recalled how, as a child, he wished there was a musical instrument that anyone could play instantly. His father and brother were musically inclined and played the accordion. Arieto would tap his foot, not owning the same talent. Later when a group of Hungarian gypsies came through his village in northern Italy, they banged on pots and pans with a rhythmical beat. These vibrations left an impression deep inside young Arieto.
As an adult, Bertoia never stopped experimenting with, playing, and enjoying his art. The tall tonal wire pieces came about when he was bending a single heavy wire and it met another piece and made a wonderful sound. It provoked wonder as to what two or three or twenty rods might sound like. Thus began the adventure down the path of “Sonambient” or the environment created by sounding sculptures. He never made the same piece twice, always seeking a different or richer sound with varying size rods. Thousands of sounding sculptures from 6” to 20’ are in high demand at auction houses.
After renovating the old estate barn, Bertoia collected about 100 sounding pieces, including gongs and “singing bars”, in the now acoustically excellent barn. He went to great lengths to set up just the right tonals in the ideal order, often substituting a new experimental sculpture for a previous selection. With technical help, he recorded eleven LP albums of “Sonambient”, which are haunting, mysterious, and at times church-like reverberations. The rods resound on each other, the bars give a Zen-like chime, and the gongs thunder in endlessly varying combinations. The barn remains intact with the sounding sculptures set up by Bertoia, where son Val gives concerts.
Let’s say during the welding and after that time everything has been silent, no sounds were coming from anywhere, and when the welding has been completed then that framework which held the wire in place is removed, and for the first time I hear the sound which is almost hearing the cry of a newborn baby. You hear that voice for the first time and from there on in I begin to go through a period of acquaintance.