This is what sculptures sound like

 Harry Bertoia's son, Val, strikes a gong with a canvas-wrapped stick. The gong is one of Bertoia's sound sculptures at the family farmhouse in Berks County. (Charlie Kaier/WHYY)

Harry Bertoia's son, Val, strikes a gong with a canvas-wrapped stick. The gong is one of Bertoia's sound sculptures at the family farmhouse in Berks County. (Charlie Kaier/WHYY)

Harry Bertoia (1915-1978) might be most well-known for his modernist wire furniture (the “Diamond Chair”), but he spent most of the latter part of his life creating resonant metal sculptures. 

Bertoia made hundreds of sound sculptures, arranging dozens inside a barn on his property where he made recordings. Called Sonambients, he released seven LPs filled with layers of metallic resonance struck randomly. The sounds are loud, formidable and meditative. Like this gong being rubbed by his Bertoia’s son, Val, using a canvas-wrapped stick:

The sculptures on display at the Michener Museum outside Philadelphia are clusters of thin bronze or stainless steel rods planted in a base. When you push the rods they sway and gently knock against each other. Of course, you’re not supposed to touch them because they are art. Lisa Tremper Hanover can touch them, because she is the CEO of the Michener Museum. She played one for us:

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