Joseph Bertolozzi makes a bridge sing

Author: Bridget Schultz
Posted: Friday, November 20, 2009

We’ve all made New Year’s resolutions we knew would be difficult to keep. But there are Hudson Valley residents who have managed to set goals for themselves this year and have managed to achieve them. Joseph Bertolozzi is one such resident.


Joseph Bertolozzi is a composer who raised thousands of dollars from local governments and the public to complete the large scale sound-art installation Bridge Music. The Mid-Hudson Bridge spanning the Hudson River in Poughkeepsie holds a secret: the bridge is a musical instrument. Composer Joseph Bertolozzi’s Bridge Music is a site-specific sound art installation created for the Bridge, where you guessed it, Bertollozzi plays the bridge as a musical art form.


To create the composition, Bertolozzi used different mallets to strike the bridge’s surfaces (guard rails, spindles, girders, suspender ropes, etc.), and sampled them into a computer. The resulting sounds were categorized by location and note/sound value and then digitally linked to music notation software files. As Bertolozzi composed the music, these notation files were used to trigger the sampled sounds upon playback, turning the bridge into a virtual instrument.


The music contains no other sounds than of the bridge itself. You can find information on the Bridge Music CD at If you take a visit to the Bridge, you can hear any of the 10 movements by pressing a button located on the bridge’s pedestrian sidewalk or tuning into 95.3FM in the parks surrounding the bridge (Johnson-Iorio Park in Highland and Waryas Park in Poughkeepsie).


To get this started, Bertolozzi faced insurmountable challenges, especially from just the standpoint of financing the project. Hoping to combine corporate advertising with funds backed by the state, he lobbied hard for New York State Quadricentennial recognition, achieving Signature Event status for Bridge Music (along with six other projects), only to lose it when state spending slashed the budget and left room for only one signature event.


To make the project happen, Bertolozzi depended on corporate dollars from such companies as Verizon, Pepsi and General Motors in return for advertising. He contacted twenty suitable promoters to handle the business end of this $2.2 million project. Bertolozzi ended up with Live Nation, one of the largest concert promoters on his side, but with the economy falling there was no viable interest. The time frame for acquiring sponsorship was July to December 2008. If the economy was already bad when he conceived the idea four years prior, this was the exact moment the world economy headed into its current depression.


Undeterred, he met with the mayor of Poughkeepsie and created a new proposal. This successfully resulted in a permanent installation rather than a series of live concerts which was the original goal of the project. A new budget had to be drawn up, and Bertolozzi had to raise $14,000; not small change, but significantly lower than the original figure. He didn’t want to use any public funds for the project, but reasoned that the Dutchess and Ulster County Tourist offices, both strong supporters, had to spend money that year so it might as well be for Bridge Music. The two offices committed most of the funds, and Bertolozzi raised the rest by soliciting his fans.


The fear of regret for not finishing Bridge Music was stronger than the will to give up. “So many people were rooting for me; I couldn’t not only let myself down, but them either,” Bertolozzi says. To hear Joseph Bertolozzi’s Bridge Music visit his website at

Categories: Feature Stories,General,Profiles

Tags: Mid-Hudson Bridge,Joseph Bertolozzi,Hudson Valley,music,performing arts

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