To mark the 700th anniversary of The Divine Comedy, Cities and Memory invited more than 80 artists from around the world to recreate Dante's Inferno through sound. I wander along the banks of the Acheron in Canto 3.
As Teodolinda Barolini mentions in Commento Baroliniano (1), Inferno 3 occurs in a liminal space. A no-place for neutral angels and all those people who, paraphrasing Dante, never were really alive. The Acheron is the threshold.
In this sound work I explore the boundaries between human - no human, silence, noise, order and chaos. A circular piece in which repetition allows me to reflect also about monotony and eternity.
The flow of time, a river. Stream of consciousness, history, myth, evolution…
Tracing back Acheron’s source, I got to Sappho’s fragment 95:
but a kind of yearning has hold of me - to die
and to look upon the dewy lotus banks
of Acheron. (2)
In this fragment, there’s also longing but no fear. I draw a line from Sappho to Dante, a braided river; but the concept of flow returns me also to the nature of sound itself. Another branch leads me to Salomé Voegelin. Sound is a fluid body that fills us with our own shape. Noise pins us down and leaves no space for imagining other posible worlds. We get lost in ourselves just as Dante does at the end of Inferno 3. In this sound work, I mix the recordings of my fridge, a rotary hammer in the street, and the wind blowing through a cable bridge with Tibetan tingshas and the chirping of crickets in different frequencies. The line between hellish and sublime harmonies is very thin. That’s how I evoke the choir of angels, the wailing, the buzz of the insects, the whirlwind and the river of sorrow. I start with Sappho’s lotus banks and finish with Dante’s Inferno.
An electrostatic flow, do not linger there for too long!
You may wander and listen Inferno - creating Dante's vision of Hell in sound here:
(1) Barolini, Teodolinda. “Inferno 3: Crossings and Commitments.” Commento Baroliniano, Digital Dante. New York, NY: Columbia University Libraries, 2018. https://digitaldante.columbia.edu/dante/divine-comedy/inferno/inferno-3/
(2) Carson, Anne. "If not, winter: Fragments of Sappho." New York: Vintage Books. 2002. p. 189.