To many, the Eiffel Tower is an architectural marvel and a symbol of Paris. But a musical instrument?
Composer Joseph Bertolozzi believes it is, and he plans to play it.
As he explains on his website, he will "harvest the Eiffel Tower’s sounds with microphones placed on its surfaces and record a work entitled 'Tower Music' or 'Musique de la Tour,' using only the natural sounds of the Tower itself."
"I took great care to prove to the [Eiffel Tower] administration that I would not physically damage the surface," he told Yahoo News in an email. "That would be plain wrong."
The idea was born, he recalled in an interview with The New York Times, when his wife took a “mock swing” at a poster they have of the Eiffel Tower. He put the request in to the Eiffel Tower administration four years ago.
The New York state resident also looked closer to home. The result was “Bridge Music,” a 2009 composition played on New York’s Mid-Hudson Bridge. The CD climbed to No. 18 on the Billboard Classical Crossover Music Chart. The composition is also a permanent installation on the bridge, complete with listening stations.
“Very helpful to have done it before,” he told Yahoo News. “I could anticipate the challenges of mic placement, the properties of the sounds and the time it takes to collect the sounds efficiently."
It also helped convince the Eiffel Tower administration, which only recently approved the plan, that it could trust him with the iconic structure. As he writes on his website, the earlier project showed "the care he took with ... Bridge Music, using techniques that would not damage structural integrity and providing safe conditions for the musicians."
Translation: Getting sound out of the tower requires banging it with mallets of various sizes—and not leaving dents.
Bertolozzi has raised $40,000 from private donors and has a team helping him with harvesting the sounds.
So what exactly does the Eiffel Tower sound like? The sounds are a symphony of “a percussion ensemble of metallic drums, marimbas and the gongs of an Indonesian gamelan,” Bertolozzi told Yahoo News.
That Indonesian instrument is significant, noted the composer, as it was featured at the World Exposition for which the tower was built. It was also “of great interest to several famous French composers such as Debussy.”
Bertolozzi hopes to complete his opus, “Tower Music,” in eight to nine months.