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Houdini’s escape from the mountains

Houdini’s escape from the mountains
9th May 2017 Cities and Memory
passo tre croci

Passo Tre Croci, the Dolomites, Italy: A walk through a spectacular part of the Dolomites near to Cortina d’Ampezzo in Italy, and we stopped to record a peaceful bubbling stream that we had to cross on the mountain path.

Full disclosure: about an hour after this recording, we were caught on the mountain in an enormous thunderstorm, which was even too fierce to get the recorder out and capture the sounds.

The reimagined version came about because I came across the only existing recording of world-famous escapologist Harry Houdini’s voice.

Here, he is describing (through Thomas Edison’s phonograph) his Water Torture Cell escape (pictured), in which a manacled Houdini was lowered into a water tank, and escaped within two minutes.

I imagined Houdini’s greatest, impossible escape – what if he was being chained up inside one of the very mountains of the Dolomites, which was then slowly flooded with water from this little mountain stream? How would the world’s greatest escapologist get out of that?

Layers of effects applied to the field recording create melodic content from the field recording itself (no additional instruments or notes are being played here), while Houdini talks about his methods, repeating one line over and over – “allowing the water to flow out”.

City version:


Memory version: