The Castel Sant’Angelo is revered by Roman Catholics around the world. Built on the bank of the Tiber River in Rome about 135 A.D., it was later the site of a key event in early Catholicism.
Pope Gregory the Great, hoping to end a catastrophic plague by leading a procession in the area, reported a vision of the archangel Michael returning a sword to its sheath. He took this as a sign the plague was over.
The site would become a retreat for popes during the Middle Ages. Pope Nicholas III had a fortified passageway constructed directly from the Vatican.
This collection of seven field recordings from Carlo Giustini were all recorded in the neighbourhood of Sant’Angelo via microcassette recorder, clip-on microphone and a reel-to-reel. Despite its coarsely ambient feel, there isn’t a single traditional music instrument on the album.
“I like to think that the post-production process carried out on these audio tapes, is able to place these recordings in a plane of existence which is different from the purely material,” writes Giustini in the album’s notes. “I believe that the sounds enclosed in this collection are the mirror of an alternative version of reality, a double (astral). This collection is the result of a profound investigation of the materials, substances and chemical processes which glue and keep things together.”
His portrayal of the picturesque Sant’Angelo is striking. Towns with long histories offer a unique mix of old and new sounds. Giustini places them side by side to portray an ancient place that modern-day people call home.
“I tried to investigate and discover what really lies behind this neighborhood and it’s suburban culture that has lived for hundreds of years in a dimension that ranges between the sacred and the profane, between wine and holy water, or more simply between the Christian and the Pagan,” he writes. “This work is nothing but a humble attempt to reveal a hidden side of this neighbourhood, or more generally of the places we spend most of our lives.”
Giustini’s take on that theme – and this place in particular – is entirely absorbing.