Harry Bertoia (1915-1978) was an Italian-born American artist who was active from the 1930s through the 1970s. Although he worked in many different mediums, he is best known for a series of metal wire diamond-shaped chairs he designed for Knoll in 1952; as well as dozens of large, abstract, metal sculptures for public spaces such as airports, banks, fountains, libraries and universities; and, of course, his sound sculptures of the 1960s and ’70s.
Many of these sound sculptures, also known as “tonal sculptures,” feature dozens of tall, slender, metal rods attached to a base. When set in motion by hand, the rods gently sway to and fro and collide with one another, forming an ethereal, haunting cloud of sound. The sound is so beautiful, in fact, that Harry wisely invested in a reel-to-reel tape recorder in the 1970s and captured hundreds of hours on tape of himself playing these sculptures. He then released 11 long-playing vinyl records of the best sessions, which have since become legendary collector’s items in underground record geek circles.