I spent last night going over all the French engineering and architectural terms for the various elements of the Eiffel Tower so I could more knowledgably reference a given surface should the need arise. As happened with my similar, earlier efforts on Bridge Music, I found the onsite workers often replace standard technical terms with simpler words. Oh well, now I can mispronounce all these technical terms in two languages!

Paris, France, Jan 8
Here’s what was posted on as the day’s weather. No equivocation here:

  • 7 AM – 34°F Foggy, FEELS LIKE: 32°
  • 8 AM – 34°F Foggy, FEELS LIKE: 32°
  • 9 AM – 34°F Foggy, FEELS LIKE: 32°
  • 10 AM – 34°F Foggy, FEELS LIKE: 32°
  • 11 AM – 34°F Foggy, FEELS LIKE: 32°
  • 12 AM – 34°F Foggy, FEELS LIKE: 32°

And on and on for the whole day…so you get the picture, dress warm!

I woke up early to consult one last time before the big meeting with Peter Emminger, my accompanying technical producer and Laurent, our videographer for the day. I gotta tell you it was dark enough when I left my apartment at 7:15am , but somehow it got darker after I emerged from the Metro 40 minutes later! And the sun never came out that day. In fact the fog was so thick at the summit (our first stop of the day), you couldn’t see the ground below. I reached my arm out into a void of gray mist…very eerie.

Joseph Bertolozzi & Marthe Ozbolt, Jan 8, 2013 at the summit of the Eiffel TowerAt the onsite administration offices of the Eiffel Tower (the Tower’s operating company is known by its French acronym SETE) we met Marthe Ozbolt, Director of Communications and the person who has been shepherding Tower Music through SETE’s requirements. Peter and I met with her in November 2010 to pitch the project, and we’ve been in touch ever since.

Helpful and pleasant as she always has been to me, I was apprehensive to meet the Chief Engineer, Stephane Roussin because a) as an unknown factor to me, he had the power to halt further progress on what I’ve already spent 8 years developing; and b) he is a former Naval officer and he potentially might be strict or militaristically severe in personality. I could not have been more wrong about the latter.

He is someone who loves to be around people, quick with a smile or joke. In retrospect I considered that he must have vetted my proposal thoroughly before I got there and that I would have had to have been completely unreasonable to their conditions for him to turn us away at this point.

An example of his warm humor came when we demonstrated how the contact microphones would be affixed to a surface, that is, with double sided tape. In every other of the day’s demonstrations we had no problems, but on this very first attempt when we removed the tape from the metal panel, it came off with a layer of paint. Not down to the metal, but enough see where it had been attached. He said, “You know, now we have to paint the whole tower all over again!”

Later on he asked me if I had been to the Tower before. I told him the story of having kissed a girl at the top when I was a teenager and how that girl became my wife and that it happened 37 years ago. He looked at Marthe and said to her “were you even born yet?” She said no. I then turned to Peter and said “wait a minute, you’re that old right?” He said “no, I’m only 35.” Stephane (who is my age) then said “let’s walk ahead and we can let the ‘kids’ catch up to us.”

The Survey
We spent the morning surveying not only the publicly accessible areas, but also sections off-limits to anyone but staff. This was to help us locate alternate surfaces to many of the ones I had proposed in my original plans. It would have been hard to describe the suitability of these alternate areas to me on the phone and I probably would not have believed they were worthy substitutes it unless I had physically seen them either, but the good people at SETE certainly knew what they had to offer.

In actuality, the alternate surfaces were not alternate at all, they were even better: they were duplicates of the spots I would have otherwise had to hang from a harness to reach, only these were found on level footing. Much like the Mid Hudson Bridge (or any bridge actually) there are duplicate, triplicate, and upwards of at least 8 replicated modules allowing one to reach an angle iron, girder or spindle in one location if it was unreachable in another. (“I’m worried about you up there on the bridge, I don’t want you to get hurt” I can still hear my father saying…to which I usually replied “Well you know, I don’t want to get hurt either!”).

In part two of today’s adventures we’ll continue with tales of rogue radio transmissions, “hyper-floors” and leashes! Stay tuned!