Tuesday 19th JuneJune 19, 2012
I seem to have had a headache for two days now, I think because I am just overtired through working too hard and trying to get too much done that maybe I don’t need to, but its been ages since I moaned about how tired I am at the start of a review, and I know how some people miss my complaints. Plus perhaps my reaction to the music I have been listening to tonight can be explained a bit also by my state of health.
Tonight’s CD is a disc of field recordings released on the Gruenrekorder label by Pietro Riparbelli. Titled Three Days of Silence – the mountain of the stigmata, the album contains six tracks constructed by blending field recordings together that Riparbelli made while visiting a monks sanctuary (if that’s what they are called) on top of a mountain in Tuscany for three days. The sanctuary is apparently famed because St Francis of Assisi is said to have received the stigmata there (he didn’t of course). Riparbelli’s CD here forms one part of a tripartite project, the other two parts being photographic and a written diary. Where the second and third parts may be published I don’t know, but I’m not in any hurry to go and find out if they are anything like as bland as this CD.
The disc is made up monkish chanting, doors slamming, footsteps in echoing halls, endless organ sounds, creaking building noises and other elements that fit that rough range of monastery-esque sounds. In essence, there is the material for a half decent album here if treated correctly. The album brings to mind Philip Gröning’s rather good film Into Great Silence that captures trappist monks going about their days in virtual silence, but where that film has a charm and degree of subtlety to it, this album is a sorry blend of ambient soundscapes created through filtering the organ and singing monks scattered with the various tastefully chosen field recording samples. The third track here, named Second Day consists of gently fading in and out vocal murmurs that form a basic rhythmic pattern, pastel shaded tones and hums presumably processed from similar sources, bits and pieces of people coming and going and then (groan) a thunderstorm and ensuing rain sounds, which are all very beautiful, as thunderstorms and rain always are but sit here in the most boring manner possible. The track, which isn’t all that different to the other five to be honest, is a completely generic Eno-esque ambient wash that seems to be so caught up in the patina of grandeur that recording in such a place seems to present us with that any attempt to make music with any originality or compositional backbone seems to have gone by the way.
Its rare I am so rudely dismissive of a CD, but when I am it seems to be music from this vague area of ambient washy soundscape meets field recording that really gets me going. Its just so obvious to me how this record was made, and given a semi decent digital recorder and microphones to capture the sounds in the first place I am in no doubt that with a few hours and some sequencing software the majority of us could have made this album. To be fait there are some grittier, dirtier sounds, bits of what sound like radio feedback fed for a short while into the fourth track Duration, but even here they are short-lived and replaced by shimmering, digitally phased recordings turned into some kind of ultimately purposeless musical statement.
Perhaps there is something to be taken from the technical skills involved in capturing the sounds here, and perhaps credit should be given for the overarching idea, but the execution of the project as an album of music meant to be sat down and listened to leaves, In my humble opinion, much to be desired. Traipsing up a mountain to record such material is no easy feat, so I will hesitate before describing Riparbelli’s entire project as lazy, but certainly the CD part of it all lacks imagination. On Gruenrekorder for those with more patience for this kind of thing than myself.