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The Gate of Hell

We continue our tour of the Inferno, and today we reach the gate of Hell – Canto Three represents Dante’s last moments in the earthly realm before entering Hell – and contains the most famous lines of the entire Divine Comedy.

“Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch’intratre” / “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here”

The first piece here, created by Cities and Memory, develops as a journey – first, we hear the birdsong of the dark forest as Dante and Virgil walk on. As they move through, voices begin to whisper the warning written on Hell’s Gate with increasing insistence, while a solo singing voice declares the presence of devils.

The birdsong fades away as we leave the forest, and the sounds of the natural world are replaced by an ominous drone belching forth from the entrance of Hell to warn away passers-by.

Wanting to avoid representing Hell through simple drones and sheets of noise, instead the entrance to Hell announces itself through building waves of arpeggiated Buchla and Jupiter lines, building the tension until Dante and Virgil leave behind the earthly realm – but on their divine mission, they will retain hope.

Our second piece from the Gate of Hell was created by Christopher Hill, who writes:

“It was the idea of the Hell Gate as a threshold, a psychic and spiritual borderland that determined my sonic strategies in representing the despair embodied in Dante’s motto, ‘Abandon all hope ye who enter here’. The listener, I imagined, would become a third party to Dante’s increasingly traumatic passage towards Hell itself.

“As the birdsong of the opening sections becomes more fragmentary and static the listener is brought to the shores of Acheron with its spirits of the selfish, its fallen angels, the permanent hum of hornets and the decaying ordure of its ground to encounter the mythic gate itself.

“The sound sources used are predominantly field recordings I had coincidently made in Italy and live improvisation. As the vista opens up and the antechamber to Hell and its denizens is revealed I wished to embrace the suffering and absence depicted by Dante in my compositional palette.

“The sound of wasps, the persecutors of the shades that occupy the shore, crowd noises, my own recitation of Canto 3 and historic sound recordings of Hitler were all added to the mix and processed using reversal, inversion and reverberation.

“Hell I envisaged is not only the depository of evil but even more so a place of abjection, emptiness and loss. A place in which regret and shame echo and reiterate throughout time and space. The piece concludes with a more formal composition in which slight variations of tonal density may be noticed by the listener; metaphorically the ceaseless repetition of remembering that defines my own idea of the nature of Hell.”