Today we’re exploring one of the most typical sounds of life in the Italian mountains – cowbells.
After a long walk on Monte Grappa in northern Italy and a late lunch in a lovely mountainside malga, we looked down the mountainside and listened to the sound of cows feeding, their bells ringing out for hundreds of metres through the air, simultaneously chaotic and melodic, and a signature sound of mountainside life.
Reimagining the sound of cow bells on Monte Grappa, we were drawn to how the sound was simultaneously melodic and chaotic, like a musical system alien to western ears being played out. That sense and the sonic quality of the cowbells brought to mind gamelan music, which was the inspiration for this piece.
The cowbells sounds were transposed to MIDI, which was then used to play a series of gamelan instruments, so the cows’ feeding becomes musical notation for the piece. Blended in lower in the mix are some dreamy, effected versions of the original field recording, and a sung gamelan prayer takes centre stage. The whole piece becomes a gamelan prayer song transported to the mountains of northern Italy.