Today we’re heading to the small town of Villa del Conte in northern Italy – a place with special significance for me as I’ve spent a lot of time there over the last few years.
We’re visiting to hear the ‘campana della sera’, which rings in the town every day at 9pm.
The church bells in Villa del Conte ring for a sustained period three times per day – once in the morning to wake the town, once at lunchtime and once, as here, at 9pm to tell the town it’s time to retire for the night.
It’s a long-standing tradition, and until fairly recently the bells were rung manually after the 9pm hour bells, with a volunteer (actually my partner’s grandfather!) cycling to the church three times a day to ring out the messages to the town.
Church bells are the voice of towns across the Catholic world, summoning people to mass, announcing weddings and funerals, and acting not just as a timepiece, but as a kind of auxiliary heartbeat for everyone in the town, marking out the stages of every single day, and marking out the important moments in the town’s life.
The remarkable thing is the ‘fingerprint’ of these bells – someone from this town can instantly identify this bell over any other in the world. To someone from the next town across, the sound of this bell means little – to those in Villa del Conte, it’s an instant part of their lives.
I’ve seen first-hand the instant reaction you get from playing this bell sound to someone from the town, and how that differs from them hearing any other bell sound – it’s really like the voice of another member of the family.
The reimagined version I created the next night, at the same time, so I could hear both the recording, and the original sound coming in through the open window as I worked on it.
For this version, I wanted to respect the sound of the bells, having established their importance, so I’ve woven some dreamlike synth textures around the outside edges of the sound, into which, over time, the original bell sounds submerge themselves.
This symbolises the function of the campana della sera as marking the end of the day – by the end of the piece, we’re sinking into sleep and into dreams ourselves.