Miguel Isaza
Wednesday 13 July 2016
Ethereal Fortore, Day 1: Slowness, microsonic encounters and aural reverie

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The fact of coming from a city like Medellin, with over three million people, and entering Ginestra degli Schiavoni, where population barely reach 400, radically transforms the perception of time. The first suggestion when arriving, is to breath slower than usual, to appreciate stillness. It’s amazing how in big cities, time seems to be a big concern, but in rural territories, people do not seem to be addicted to the clock, so the remoteness of the location is also reflected in temporal flexibility, which in this community also seems to develop a sense of hospitality and kindness.

With just a minor exploration of the area, wandering between abundant bird chanting, wind of all velocities, kind elders playing cards in the bar, curious kids walking around to see the foreigners, and vast rural places calling to be explored, it’s easy to realise that balance between work and life it is not disproportionate. The village immediately invites to contemplation, so the first task adopted was precisely to let the ears to be relaxed and meditate around. Early I went to listen and record some activity, which is in majority driven by agriculture: vast fields of multiple greens and tall grass perceived between beautiful forests and small houses. Sonic elements are hugely diverse and detailed, oscillating between the magical and the concrete, between a virgin and untouched world and a symbolic and traditional one. The idea for the first day was therefore walk by listening, that is, to move not merely by feet, but using what both the ears and the heart dictate, looking deep into the acoustics but also in the oneiric patterns of listening, that in order to generate an integrative process of contemplative, philosophic and recording/composition process, are cross-pollinated.

The most striking experience today was undoubtedly the perception of space, as a vast ocean of delicately organised sounds. Slowness becomes a poetic opportunity, an invitation to navigate into uncharted microsonic worlds. Complexity here is not reflected as in cities, where massive layers of activity are masked together, but in the opposite direction, since the reduction of massive ways of living is also reflected in sonic energy, actually giving it more space and let it distribute in a more detailed manner, so the small sounds (in both time, frequency and intensity) appear often, thus generating interesting proposals for aural imagination, since the majority of sound grains are perceived without relation to a visual or material element, many of them appearing as non-detectable signals that break the boundary between the imagined sound and the acoustic one. A huge amount of small animals, subtle material movements and the occasional microscopic fleeting appearance are presented in many places with no big effort of listening, therefore a prolonged contemplation, you may find them more depth and the worlds produced by them become more intense.

Another factor immediately perceived in my first day was the wind, which makes recording difficult at times as it affect the microphones, but is a really interesting element which I would love to explore in the following days. In the afternoon visited an elder called Pasquale, who shared with us a wonderful story about his collection of hundreds of vinyl records with which my friend Nandy Cabrera is developing an interesting trans-media project. The aforementioned collection comes from Pasquale’s brother-in-law, who was a tenor and choirmaster, fan of all kinds of music and used to buy records by mail. The way in which the widow reacted to our conversation by musically reminding her husband, plus the passion that Pasquale reflected with the stories of those times, showed us a fascinating relationship between sound and memory that is not only present in the grooves of the vinyl discs, but especially in the distant echoes that they seem to hear. Judging by their faces and the emotion with which they spoke, he didn’t seem to point merely of a dead man who used to sang, but also about an vivid experience coming from distant but present echoes they hear, in memory, even when the acoustic phenomena is gone. So not only the sound becomes a memory device itself, but memory and reverie appear as heard landscapes as well.

The evening ended with an interesting exploration of the church and a conversation with Antonietta, church organist and great devotee of Christianity. It was very interesting how her conception of sound, singing and aural manifestation, allows a numinous opening of listening, an acoustic devotion that is manifested in her personal experience but expands collectively. This is something I would like to explore deeply in the following days, also because Saint Antonio’s feast starts (on July 16th).

Subsequently, we enjoyed a delicious meal with some local vegetables and cheeses, followed by interesting discussions with the locals and some members of Liminaria team, with whom we then went for a walk into the nocturnal city, whose sound expression is quite interesting as it is dark and full of aural possibilities; but let’s leave that for tomorrow. For now, it’s time to sleep between the high-pitched animal grains and the wind which together create a unique lullaby.