Trieste Taumaturgo tech-step

Trieste Taumaturgo tech-step

Trieste Orthodox churchA quiet moment snatched in Trieste, Italy, inside the Serbian Orthodox church at Chiesa Sant’Antonio Taumaturgo. Wandering in from the street, we came across a priest singing prayers alone at the front of the church, shaking his incense burner periodically.

He is shortly joined by a second worshipper, who joins him in what seems like a verse-chorus style recitation and repetition.

It’s a precious recording, which really feels like we’ve intruded onto a deeply-personal moment. In fact, I’ve left in certain imperfections in the recording, shuffles and motions that betray the extent to which I am trying to respect this private moment and capture it without somehow intruding upon it.

For the reimagined version, I wanted to create a full-on musical track using elements from this peaceful recording as base material, having already contributed some more ambient and contemplative reworkings of sacred spaces myself elsewhere in the project.

The challenge was to try to incorporate elements of the recording without just jamming a vocal sample over what could otherwise be a pre-existing track, but for those elements to be deeply and intrinsically interwoven with the music.

You can hear the original piece throughout like this:

  • We start with a vocal loop from the field recording (a short loop that lent itself well to doubling), which feeds back on itself leading into the drums.
  • The growling bass synth in the first section is constructed from a different vocal sample, using it as source material from which to generate a synth instrument.
  • The second section loops a piece of vocal more directly, using it to replace the melodic content that would normally come from a synth.
  • Throughout, you can hear the metallic clatter of the priest’s incense burner, which has been turned into an extra percussion sound.

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Campana della sera in Villa del Conte, Italy

Campana della sera in Villa del Conte, Italy

Villa del Conte churchToday 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.

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The three mausoleums: Vigeland, Asiago & Turkestan

The three mausoleums: Vigeland, Asiago & Turkestan

We’re starting the week with a visit to three very sombre, but very different locations – the three mausoleums on our Sacred Spaces map.

Asiago, Italy

First is the Sacrario Militare in Asiago, Italy – a huge, imposing monument to those who lost their lives in World War 1, housing the remains of more than 50,000 Italian and Austro-Hungarian soldiers.

You can hear the vast, stone-and-marble resonance of the space in the field recording, along with the sounds of grass-cutting and gardening seeping in from the outside, eerily reminiscent of the sound of aircraft overhead.

Antriksh Bali created a new piece called “Hounds of War” from this recording:

What pulled me to this recording was the fact that while most other spaces / sounds seemed to be based more towards closed spaces (however big they might have been), I imagined this place to be more ‘open’. That was one factor.

“Another factor was the audio had these bass under-tones to them and it just painted a bleak picture, something that I thought could really work with from the perspective of how I look at sounds. The audio in particular was more mechanical / industrial in nature and I feel more comfortable working with sounds of that nature.

“What struck me as prominent throughout the recording was this undertone of a sound throughout that sounded like a nearby airplane. I started trying to model some of the sounds I could hear in the recording using software analog synths. While initially, the idea was to model everything with analog synths, due to certain limitations I had to get a bit creative.

“I approached the entire reimagining in the form of layers. Having started with a realistic bass sound that was somehow similar to the plane in the distance, I decided to imagine what things would sound like from the perspective of the distant plane. Furthermore, on doing a bit more research about where this was recorded, I realised that it was something like a war memorial. I felt that this setting was perfect to demonstrate with sounds, the horrors and destruction that often accompanies war.

“As I added more layers, I added in more elements that were new and more dissonant and eventually ended up with a track that is more “fantastical” in nature, rather than realistic.

“To sum up, my idea was to depict what a fighter plane going into war hears (if not realistically or externally, you could also assume some of those sounds could be things soldiers might hear internally or in the world around them during a war).”

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Oslo, Norway

Next up is Leon Muraglia‘s recording of the foreboding Vigeland mausoleum in Oslo, Norway, selected by Hazal Elif Yalvac to recompose:

“I selected this Vigeland Mauseoleum – I have always wanted to visit it to hear it in real time. I was in Norway in 2014 September, visiting Oslo as well, seeing the legendary Vigeland Park. And I also had the chance to visit Bergen back in 2015, August. I didn’t have the chance for Vigeland Mauseoleum during any of my visits.

“But I wanted to take this opportunity to reimagine the sound of a space that I’ve never seen before. Norway is home to some of Earth’s most attractive natural beauties as well as a unique deep history of Vikings. As one of the most peaceful countries of our planet, it inspires me a lot. I wanted to imagine a conflict of a legend that, in my story, used to take place in this mauseoleum.

“Here, Norse Gods and evil forces are depicted in this piece. First of all, the resonance effects I designed through use of both granular and long textural delays represent the roaring of Gods.

“Apart from designing such sounds, I also tapped into a simplistic technique of additive synthesis on the human-like choir sound at the end of the original recording by simply adding frequency-shifted sounds also through ring modulation, which I wanted to turn into an absorptive acoustic space, getting bigger with decays and diffusion as well as through the freeze effect. I attempted to tap into a wide range of frequency spectrum. I therefore included noisy and glitchy textures as well.

“However, I thought that such sounds I designed through pulsar synthesis, as coined by Mr. Curtis Roads, should fit into this atmosphere of such venue as Vigeland mauseoleum that can offer a great acoustic space. To this end, I tried to avoid an artificial sound design for such millisecond sounds, which could also create great spaces, but in this case, I wanted to achieve a consistency and coherence of sounds.

“So, I designed this as a response to lengthy textural drones. I also tapped into subtractive synthesis by using filtering techniques mostly including low-pass filtering. While the delay resonances represent roaring of Norse Gods, they resolve into a voice-like drone which represents death as an indication of respect for those beloved ones we lose/lost. In this case, Gods might have been fighting against dark forces.

“Those dying are commemorated but dark forces do not leave, which are represented through noisy textures after the resolution of drones. Still, a peaceful darkness is there because no matter what, the evil ones will be fought against, as represented with the low-pass filter drone resolution at the end.”

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Turkestan, Kazakhstan

Our final stop today is our first recording from Kazakhstan, courtesy of Patrick Franke, who writes: “The Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi is not only the most important sacred site for Kazakh Muslims, it is also a breeding site for about hundred pairs of Common Myna Acridotheres tristis tristis and Western Jackdaw Corvus monedula soemmeringii, which breed in cavities, formed by erosion all over the frontage of the building.”

John Wiggins, who reimagined the sound, simply writes: “this mausoleum was a place of worship, a spiritual location. To me that meant these sounds were from another place and I tried to invoke that dimension.”

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The sound of the River Po, Turin

The sound of the River Po, Turin

Turin, Italy: a freezing cold December afternoon in the city centre, next to the impressive River Po – here, the river roars over a large weir on its way down through the city.

To get the full impression of the sound, which was mightily loud, you’d have to turn the field recording right up – it really is an all-enveloping sound in situ.

New contributor Julian Weaver has reimagined the sound, about which he writes:

“In the introduction to his last film The Turin Horse, Béla Tarr, after repeating the apocryphal tale of Friedrich Nietzsche’s breakdown, ends with the statement “Of the horse… we know nothing.”

“This is the only veracious line, evidenced by Anacleto Verrecchia’s ‘La Catastrofe di Nietzsche a Torino’, yet each retelling elaborates further; adding spurious detail until nothing but detail remains: perfect post-truth interference.

“I’ve take an additive approach; the white noise of the weir on the River Po with those of equine breaths and freshets at the Hydro near Blarney, Co. Cork, Ireland.”

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The comforting haze of Christmas in Trieste

The comforting haze of Christmas in Trieste

Trieste, Italy – standing in the famous Piazza Unità d’Italia, the largest sea-facing square in Europe, we can hear Christmas music being piped through speakers around the square, which is lined with Christmas trees and ropes of lights.

Here we can hear Bing Crosby’s classic “White Christmas”, along with the excited chatter of Christmas shoppers and a handful of tourists, while in the background a stage is being assembled for the upcoming New Year’s Eve celebration.

The reimagined version looks at the comforting haze of Christmas, a time when nostalgia and good times from the past are invoked with the intention of enveloping us in a blanket of association, memory and comfort.

We’ve taken sections of Crosby’s “White Christmas” and manipulated them to create a hazy, melodic piece that blends in elements of the field recording alongside snippets of vocal from the song, bringing that sense of warmth and hazy familiarity that comes with Christmas time.

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Nine bells in Cortina d’Ampezzo

Nine bells in Cortina d’Ampezzo

A welcome return to the Italian Alps for Cities and Memory, and the ski resort town of Cortina d’Ampezzo, base camp for some of the most amazing walks and climbs in the Dolomites.

On a quiet August evening, the town is unusually very quiet, with barely a handful of people around.

It’s a perfect time to hear the sound of the town’s church bells, combined with that very particular reverberation and air quality of mountain towns. A beautiful sound.

For the reimagined sound, we’ve constructed an ambient drone piece from the very sounds of the bells themselves.

Nine pulses throb in and out of existence in this piece, one for every chime of the church bells ringing nine o’clock.

These pulses have been augmented with piano, strings, ondes martenot and various synths, all filtered and effected to preserve their warm tones, but to render them less recognisable and more dreamlike.

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Prato della Valle: Padova’s Christmas dream

Prato della Valle: Padova’s Christmas dream

Prato della Valle, PadovaAn unseasonal but lovely sonic exploration for you today – while much of the world sizzles in a July summer, let’s take a trip to frosty Padova, Italy.

We’re in the centre of the largest square in Italy, the Prato della Valle, listening to an accordion busker work his way through “Silent Night” before bursting into song.

For the reimagined piece, we drift in and out of the sonic scene – the busker’s piece momentarily freezes as we enter his dreamworld, looking all around him as his plays and pondering the world.

We snap back into reality to hear more of his song, but it’s not long before his – and our – attention begins to drift into daydreaming again.

What’s he dreaming of?

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Sounds from the Ponte dell’Accademia, Venice

Sounds from the Ponte dell’Accademia, Venice

venice-920864_640Trying to restore some sense of normality after the horrible result of the EU referendum here in the UK, I took my laptop down to the river and, as I often do in times of disturbance, returned to the sounds of Venice to rebalance and comfort myself.

The sound I chose was a recording crossing one of the four bridges across the Grand Canal, the wooden Ponte dell’Accademia, with tourists and children walking back and forth on a showery day in September.

I’ve tried to build a piece that’s serene and calm around the field recording, trying to recreate a little of the inner calm that Venice brings me, as we attempt to deal with the biggest political upheaval of our generation here in the UK.

It brought me half an hour of serenity, at least, and I hope it brings you a few minutes of listening pleasure.

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The eye of the storm on Stromboli

The eye of the storm on Stromboli

StromboliA special field recording for us today. We were stranded on the tiny island of Stromboli overnight as a huge storm hit, meaning that all boat transport to and from the island was cancelled.

At midnight, I went out to record the sounds of the island and captured a fantastic blend of nearfield and far-off sounds.

In the field next to me, crickets were chirping away merrily. But hundreds of metres down the slopes ahead of me, the sea, churned up by the storm, was absolutely roaring, a deep bass drone.

The high end was concentrated close to me, with the bottom end of the sound clearly coming from much further away – it was a fascinating sound.

Long-time contributor Andy Lyon has taken on this Stromboli sound and constructed an entire song around it, building up drums, synths and pads all around the central field recording.

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