Tower Music / Musique de la Tour

Tower Music / Musique de la Tour

Birth of a sound sculpture
Joseph Bertolozzi
Joseph Bertolozzi
Catalog Number: 
new classical
new music
homemade instruments
music for dance

Paris, France

Release Date: 
Apr 29, 2016
Liner Notes: 
1 CD
Joseph Bertolozzi: Tower MusiciTunes Artist's PageiTunes Album Page
Song TitleTimePrice
1.A Thousand Feet of Sound05:11$0.99
2.The Harp That Pierced the Sky03:11$0.99
6.The Elephant on the Tower03:28$0.99
7.Glass Floor Rhythms02:44$0.99
8.Evening Harmonies04:31$0.99
9.Tower Music10:53
10.Audio Tour of Eiffel Tower11:25
One Sheet: 

What is the sound of one hand clapping? We may never know. What does the Eiffel Tower sound like? Hah! There's an answer to that one.

Never one to shy away from a compositional challenge, Bertolozzi undertook what became a twelve year odyssey to sample and write music using only the sounds of the Eiffel Tower. Without the aid of supplemental instruments or effects, he worked with the raw surfaces of this architectural landmark. 

A spiritual follow-up to his Bridge Music (composed for and using New York’s Mid Hudson Bridge), Tower Music was a logistical as well as artistic challenge. Bertolozzi’s careful navigation of the considerable political, artistic and organizational challenges guided Tower Music to completion through waters fortuitously free of protocols. Notoriously protective of images of their iconic structure, the French embraced Bertolozzi’s project to make it sing.

This muse of iron did not yield its harmonies easily, however. Percussive cadences revealed themselves more readily than melodic lines, but the challenge was met: Bertolozzi takes something incomplete as an instrument and makes it seem like there’s nothing missing.

Bertolozzi's tour de force of compositional craftsmanship takes the listener on a colorful journey: from its bold, opening overture to gentle whisperings; from a lilting waltz to a darkly avant-garde soundscape; from a mash-up of modern Western and ancient Indonesian styles to the volcanic finale. Here, a composer takes on a world monument and brings back the music of the world.


"Irresistible ... a buoyant, resonant rhythmic entertainment. [A] witty and often beautiful array of rhythmic grooves and harmonic rhapsodies, as if Steve Reich had been set loose on a giant Erector set. ... [T]he piece’s allure really comes from the vigor and inventiveness of Bertolozzi’s musical imagination." [FULL ARTICLE]
Joshua Kosman

"The album begins with 'A Thousand Feet of Sound,' a five-minute overture exploring the Tower’s entire aural array—layering earthy, thumping basslines with the lightning-fast, tinny clinking of the Tower’s fences and panels. 'The Harp That Pierced the Sky' employs quite a different sonic palette, enveloping the listener in an intimate sound world of sparse musical textures, metallic echoes, soft percussive melodies, and plenty of silence.

"The title track brings Bertolozzi’s magnum opus to a close with a (literal) bang, featuring a bold and bass-heavy eruption of industrial melodies and fearlessly dynamic, muscular rhythmic themes. And to top it all off, at the end of the album Bertolozzi includes an audio tour of the Tower to help you locate the different tones, timbres, and musical textures used throughout." [FULL ARTICLE]
Maggie Molloy

"None of the recorded sounds was electronically altered or manipulated in any way; however, they are layered and ordered in such a way as to create music that sometimes evokes gamelan, sometimes minimalist electronica, sometimes Japanese noh drama, sometimes military drumming. Any library supporting a program in music composition should absolutely acquire this album." [FULL ARTICLE]
Rick Anderson

"[I]f you didn’t know where the sounds came from you’d hear a natural kinship with the tremendous “experimental” percussion music of the California school of American composers – Lou Harrison, Henry Cowell, John Cage and Harry Partch. You can call it “performance art” if you like and emphasize the music’s origins as one of the world’s greatest civic monuments but the music itself beautifully continues the tradition of percussion music created by some of the greatest 20th century experimentalists in American music (and the Javanese gamelan music which inspired them as well as Claude Debussy.) Bertolozzi performs such works all over the world on bridges etc. A delightful musical figure." [FULL ARTICLE]
Jeff Simon

Tower Music is a 21st-century homage to the Eiffel Tower, to the Exposition Universelle of 1889 and to Paris itself. Joseph Bertolozzi presents us with an acoustic version of a deck of old photographs, movie posters, and postcards related to Paris and the Tower. Once again, as in Bridge Music (2008) the composer uses the substance and structure of an engineering marvel to create a unique sense of place. This sound creation can only be realized through the resonances of the Eiffel Tower itself. It is intrinsically of the Eiffel Tower.

Tower Music masterfully combines the Baroque development of the dance suite with Romantic notions of the character piece, short piano works or collections of works that use musical pitches to create various moods or to depict scenes. In this way the work owes much in spirit not only to the Ordres of François Couperin’s early 18th-century harpsichord works but also to the piano preludes of Claude Debussy. However, this is only in spirit. The individual movements are part dances, part miniature tone poems. Tower Music transcends Modernist notions of the high art or “classical” music being separate from the notion of music itself—apart from the popular music of daily life. The listener can hear major and minor pentatonic melodies, some evoking folk tunes that seem familiar but others, especially in percussive style, that relate to the Javanese gamelan—the gong orchestra—that appeared at the Paris during the Exposition, whose sounds inspired Debussy. At times the stately gongs catch fire and link themselves to the more passionate Balinese or Vietnamese tradition. Sometimes we hear waltz-like carousel melodies accompanied by ascending and descending arpeggios and at other times familiar tunes that have a particular Parisian cabaret flavor. In “Ironworks,” for example, the composer uses the son clave, an Afro-Caribbean beat of 3+3+4+2+4 found in much 20th-century music, from early New Orleans jazz to the beguine of the North American outre-mer to the so-called Bo Diddley beat of early rock and roll. But the listener can also hear hints of the ubiquitous rhythms of today’s EDM (Electronic Dance Music) as the disc jockeys pound out their synthetic patterns.

Tower Music is a tour de force of Postmodern culture. It is both specific in its creation and general in its references. It alludes to times and places far beyond one specific world’s fair. It works on the imagination, fully encompassing a history and tradition redolent of France, Paris, and the Eiffel Tower.

— Andrew Tomasello

"[I]f you love kinetic percussion and rhythmical jigging, sometimes reminiscent of Cage's early bash-ups, there's much to enjoy."
Geoff Brown