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Eiffel Tower becomes musical tool for New York composer

U.S. composer Joseph Bertolozzi makes sounds by striking the surface of the Eiffel Tower for a musical project called 'Tower music' in Paris
U.S. composer Joseph Bertolozzi makes sounds by striking the surface of the Eiffel Tower for a musical project called 'Tower music' in Paris

By Johnny Cotton

PARIS (Reuters) - Star of songs, sketches and the silver screen for over a hundred years, the Eiffel Tower is now taking the lead role in a musical composition which will see the landmark speak for itself.

The structure is an instrument for a piece to be entitled "Tower music" - a project conceived by U.S. composer Joseph Bertolozzi.

With latex mallets, drumsticks and even a large log wrapped in lambs wool in his box of tricks, Bertolozzi moves all over the 324-metre tower, hitting its surfaces with varying intensity and recording the sounds produced.

The idea is to weave them together, creating chords and melodies over a percussion base.

Bertolozzi's team have collected since May 27 nearly 2,000 samples from the iron structure's railings, panels and girders.

The 54 year-old who lives in New York, told Reuters on Friday that the idea came from his wife.

"My wife was mimicking the way I play my percussion with my arms flailing and everything. She was near a poster of the Eiffel Tower, took a swing at it and she went 'Bong!'," he said.

Inspired to make music with the monument, Bertolozzi had to overcome practical difficulties, notably his lack of French and the fact he had few contacts in Paris.

He first decided to start small with a composition for New York state's Mid-Hudson suspension bridge. The resulting "Bridge Music" spawned a CD which reached number 18 on the Billboard Classical Crossover Music Chart in 2009.

For the organist and choirmaster whose day job sees him perform at weddings and bar mitzvahs, the tower is an instrument just like any other.

"A guitarist knows the character of each string, one string is wound with metal, another one is maybe gut string, they're thicker, they're thinner, they know how they respond. So when I look at the tower, now more than before, I know how the thing will respond as an instrument," he said.

He says that he has a tendency to bash out rhythms on household objects, citing dinner glasses, doorknobs and dishes as regular targets.

The team have spent nearly two weeks weaving in and out of the tens of thousands of tourists who climb the Eiffel Tower every day.

Most are bemused by Bertolozzi and his entourage of sound technicians and producers, but he had some support on Friday with one pair of visitors improvising a rap to the beat he drummed out on one of the structure's many staircases.

When the work is finished in nine months, Bertolozzi says he dreams of coming back to perform it live at the Eiffel Tower to celebrate its 125th birthday in 2014.

Organisers said the show would require over a hundred musicians with microphones installed all over the iron structure, relaying sounds to the public below.

The tower's managers are still to be convinced, citing possible security concerns.

(Editing by Paul Casciato)

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