To mark the 700th anniversary of Dante’s masterpiece The Divine Comedy, more than 80 artists from all over the world have created his vision of Hell through sound – this is the Cities and Memory Inferno.
This has been a very strange year. On the one hand it’s been one of illness and taking stock – of facing one’s demons. On the other hand, in spite of things, in some way, 2020 has been one the most creative years I’ve had and this is the pinnacle.
During one of my dark weeks, Cities and Memory put out a call out for audio artists and musicians to create sound pieces in response to Dante’s Inferno. What a subject matter for an audio artist and one that I couldn’t pass on.
For many reasons, I decided on The Sowers of Discord. In keeping with the theme of Divine Retribution that runs throughout Dante’s Inferno, the sinners in the ninth chasm, the Sowers of Discord, are brutally split and mutilated, just as they split and mutilated aspects of religion, politics, or their fellow citizens. They poison the world with their words and create havoc, division and chaos as a result.
How appropriate for the times we are living in.
For this piece I began by reading several articles on some of the major issues that face our planet at this time – climate change, the pandemic, radicalism, trumpism, poverty, racism and mapped out common themes such as denying science and facts, denying culpability, undermining and diminishing others, spreading mistruths and destabilising democratic institutions and processes. Certain terms and practices are common and phrases such as ‘It’s not real’ ‘It’s not our fault’ ‘It’s not urgent’ are often repeated like mantras. The spreading of repeated denials, mistruths and conspiracy theories often result in division, conflict, riots, demonstrations and violence. I also looked up the definitions and synonyms of the word discord, which included musical terms, and since this is a pandemic and I am in semi lockdown, I recorded myself reading them.
These recordings of phrases and words are the basis of my piece and represent the methods used by the Sowers of Discord such as, whispering, louder voices drowning out weaker ones, repetition, overspeak, distortion, circular repetitive phrases, constant messages, reiteration and disorientating the listener. Radio waves, static and feedback add to the noise, with some voices sounding distorted as if the dial isn’t quite on the radio station but certain messages are still getting through.The underlying doom laden drone uses notes from a discordant chord.
Overall, the aim was to create a cacophony of words that represent how the sowers of discord use amongst other things social media, media, rallies etc to get their message through with the aim to create division, hatred and violence in order to get their way.
It’s not an overstatement to say how honoured I am to have my piece not only included on the Bandcamp release but also on the film.
Edited selections from the project have been used to create a brand new soundtrack for the 1911 silent movie L’Inferno, widely regarded as the first full-length Italian feature film. A finely-knit patchwork of pieces from the project are blended together to create a new way to enjoy this visionary film.
What better way to spend my Monday morning than to watch with headphones Dante’s journey into hell. Brilliant work by all….Loved it and very proud to be included, although pride being a deadly sin means I know where I’ll end up after I shift this mortal coil : D
The whole project is a beautiful work of Art.