When describing a location, some people choose the literal and others the figurative. Giardino Forico n° 1 – Napoli is a multi-media attempt to paint an impression of Naples that goes far beyond the physical, hovering instead on the edge of the mind. The release pairs a 60-page art booklet of photos and paintings by Fabio Orsi and Alessandra Guttagliere with a CD of soundscapes from Orsi. This creates different access points that can be entered separately or together.
The blue face on the cover is an indication that more goes on below the surface of Naples than above. It appears to be a painted person, painting ~ making reference to the city’s fabulist associations. In the background, the stern gaze of an older woman draws even more attention. The young will continue to do what they may; the old will form their own opinions. Much of the art book is like this: part realistic, part imagined, photos altered through paint, skin tones altered, battles fought between black and white and color.
The music follows suit, allowing listeners to form their own connections. The disc begins as a field recording, with steps, birds, and distant bells. Children play in the background. One senses this is early morning or late evening. But as a plane passes overhead, it leaves a drone in its wake, shifting the recording into the field of soundscape. Soon there is conversation and cavernous water, toppling into Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer” (sounding more like the Marvin Hamlisch version). This sonic collage is an aural reflection of the images in the booklet: fragments that may form different wholes depending on the viewer/listener. Late in the 16-minute opener, ambient washes operate as a glaze, holding all the pieces together, the final one being the cry of gulls.
Is this Naples? It’s a filtered Naples, alternating specificity with blur, just like the memory. If one were to visit, one might encounter lines of contact: oh, that must be the Gulf. That must be the flagpole in the piazza. But this is not a score to a city, or even to a people, but an ode to impression. As the presented poem reads, “we found ourselves covered by debris, passing skeletons / shadows of leaves, passages, spells, voices of pianos from the windows / memories of places that live in several times.” Even if one is to recognize the specific organ that is being played, it is not about the organ, or even the notes, but the feeling of hearing the notes while walking through an ephemeral landscape, perhaps even when home thinking of a place that is not home. Hints of a party, and then dinner, decorate the end of the second piece, along with a tourist’s polite apology. We are all tourists here.
The concluding tone is one of calm, as the paintings, photos and field recordings are engulfed in the soothing tones of synth and sea. The hard memories have been sloughed off; only gentle memories remain. The footsteps leave the city on their way to the sand. (Richard Allen)