Though Sonambient works can technically be grouped with Bertoia’s other sculptures, these works ultimately represent a distinct part of his creative practice. These three-dimensional objects were created to generate sound, and have aesthetic, sonic, and kinetic properties. 

Bertoia created his first prototype sounding sculptures in early 1960. These tonal sculptures started with a complex grid wire base, which by the mid 1960s morphed into a flat, drilled metal base for vertical rods. Rods were placed in rows and grouped into rectangular or circular grids; loose at the top, the rods were made in a variety of shapes and produced a variety of sounds. Materials for the tonal sculptures included brass, bronze, beryllium copper, aluminum, monel, Inconel, and occasional gold plating. Gongs and singing bars of varying lengths came in the mid 1970s to round out the Sonambient orchestra. 

Except for an edition of fifty tonals created in 1977, every sounding sculpture Bertoia made is unique. Thousands of sounding sculptures, ranging from six inches to twenty feet, produce all kinds of tones; he created different sounds and visual forms by varying the type of metal, configuration of rods, or overall sculptural shape. With the help of his musically inclined brother Oreste, Bertoia recorded these sounds in his home studio barn in the 1970s.