Listening to Art

02.02: David Partridge, Metropolis

Download (MP3).

Listening to Art, by William Denton.

Volume two, number two: Metropolis by David Partridge.

Hello, and welcome to Listening to Art. I’m William Denton.

One of the many wonderful things about David Partridge’s naillies is that you can touch them. Most sculptures you’re not allowed to touch, but Mr. Partridge didn’t mind—after all, they’re made of steel nails, and running your finger along them isn’t going to hurt them. What’s more, if the nails aren’t tightly spaced, you can drop a coin down, and it makes a beautiful randomly-generated sound as it finds a path through and falls to the ground. You’ll hear me doing this at the end of this recording.

Many people drop a coin through Metropolis, which is in the lobby of Toronto City Hall. You’ll recall this building was designed by Viljo Revell, who is ultimately responsible for Henry Moore’s strong presence in Toronto, as discussed in volume one numbers ten and eleven. Mr. Partridge won a public competition in the 1970s and this vast work has been on display there for forty years now. It has over 100,000 nails in it.

This is a naillie, made of aluminum sheathing over plywood, with copper and galvanized steel nails, 924.6 cm wide by 227.3 cm high.

Now let’s listen to Metropolis by David Partridge, recorded at Toronto City Hall, in Toronto, Ontario, on 02 November 2017.

Waveform of the field recording.

That was Metropolis by David Partridge. I hope you enjoyed listening to it as much as I did.

For more information and links to things I’ve mentioned, please visit

Listening to Art is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License


All web sites accessed as of date of publication.

City of Toronto. “A Step Forward in Time: Public Art.” City of Toronto.

Denton, William. “Henry Moore, Large Two Forms.” Listening to Art 01, no. 10 (01 October 2017).

⸻. “Henry Moore, Large Two Forms.” Listening to Art 01, no. 11 (15 October 2017).

Wikipedia, s.v. “David Partridge (artist),”