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The music of Piazza Navona, Rome

Piazza NavonaTake a stroll with us through Piazza Navona, one of Rome’s most famous locations, a bustling and important public space for centuries.

As well as sculptural marvels like Bernini’s Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, the piazza has been a hugely important architectural and artistic space since the 1600s.

And as you might expect from such a grand and popular space, Piazza Navona also makes for some fascinating soundscapes. The piazza is long and enclosed, giving it a self-contained soundscape that can shift and develop as you walk through it.

Its centrepieces are the sounds of the stunning fountains, but you can also hear birdsong, crowds and the usual array of buskers that dot themselves around such spaces – in this clip, there’s a really nice acoustic band playing, with natural reverb from the piazza lending their music a faraway quality.

At the end of the recording, we walk slowly away, leaving them behind to approach the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi.

City version:

The field recording was reimagined by Christina Wong, who writes:

“The first thing that popped into my head when I first heard the recording was the idea of playing records on a hot summer day/night. And dancing.

“I asked a few friends what the Italian equivalent of “May I have this dance?” would be and had them record themselves saying it.

“And I imagined this old-time feeling to the piece in general so I went on a search for old Alan Lomax field recordings and I came across one he made in Romania that featured horns and it was just the sound I was looking for.

“I didn’t make too many changes to the original recording; rather, I imagined myself playing a record of the piece on a hot summer day, or night, windows wide open, birds chirping, cicadas and crickets singing, and I’m humming along to the music.”

Memory version: