A Pleasant Vineyard, Sing of It

Italian sound artist Nicola di Croce has released 47AD (UNFATHOMLESS U64) for the Belgian Unfathomless label, home of fine field recordings and phonography related materials. Actually di Croce is something of an all-rounder, primarily an architect it seems, with a special interest in urban planning. He does this alongside making music and scholarly activities.

Today’s item is an investigation into the process of wine-making, and might amount to an attempt to represent fermentation in sound; matter of fact he exhibited a version of this record as an installation called Fermento, about which more shortly. He did it in the vineyards of Treviso, a charming part of Northern Italy which I happen to have visited for the annual comics festival in 1988. Opening up the CD card wrapper, I was struck to see two photos of Nicola di Croce doing it in the area, equipped with his headphones and microphones; we don’t often get to see such images, and I wonder if many phonographers prefer to preserve the mystique (although they do like to list their equipment). di Croce also publishes grid references on the CD, a technique which takes me back; Chris Watson used to do this a lot on his records, and at one time it seemed a way of adding a hallmark of authenticity or accuracy to one’s work.

Our man arrived at this site just after the grape harvest one summer, and started to point his microphones directly at the large fermentation tanks. As they churned and whirred (they use submerged propellers to chomp up the grapes), Nicola believed he was hearing the fermentation process in action, and his mics gave him an interesting perspective on it as an audible phenomenon. This may have been supplemented by putting hydrophones (underwater mics) directly into the tanks, to capture that exciting bubbling moment in detailed close-up. Also, the voices of the workers show up on the tape too, and though they’re not central to the meaning of the work, their relaxed murmurs as echoed by the metal surfaces of the tanks give added audio perspective. It would be nice to know if these recordings represent a brief snapshot in the life of the vats, or whether di Croce went all out for the long game of a start-to-finish representation of fermentation, but either way he has succeeded in creating a compelling audio experience. The motors in particular, while not obtrusive, create an internal rhythm to the piece which carries us along.

After some composing and editing actions, Nicola produced this as the Fermento art installation; with the help of Claudio Bellini, it was arranged that the sounds would help to generate a visual effect of some sort which was projected directly onto the walls of the vineyard. The CD is named after the 47AD vineyard in Veneto where this all took place, historically important as Via Augustus was an early trade route built by the Romans to connect Altinum and the Venice lagoon to the Alps, Austria, and beyond. From 10th November 2020.

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