What goes on in the mind of the hunchback of Notre-Dame, while he swings between rafters and gazes down on townspeople in the square and worshippers in the cathedral? Near mute and half-blind, he certainly also suffers from at least partial deafness, the tragically ironic outcome of being held captive with only his beloved bells for company. So what´s he taking in? Whatever aural stimulus reaches him must be muffled and random, accompanied by the steady clarity of his own heartbeat.
Pietro Riparbelli, composer and multimedia artist who also boasts a healthy catalogue as K11, is one of many impressive members of the confraternity Archivio Italiano Paesaggi Sonori (AIPS) and happens to have spent a lot of time in cathedrals himself; in fact, he is a virtual collector of their sound and aura.
Vacuum capitalizes on their notoriously impetuous acoustics, the bending and sheering, stretching and vaulting of their various interiors, around which redound his tangled radio signals and vintage domestic synthesizers. Appropriately titled for the Quasimodo conceit broached above, ´Senza Forma´ – shapeless – is actually constrained within a ruthlessly metronomic beat, while an unseen eye takes the measure of the place. Footsteps fade after having led us in the direction of the ´Primo Percorso´, a path along which a slender, repetitive melody shivers in dank air, air that becomes far more frigid as winds whip ´Distacco´. The pulse now throbs in the ears, and hunchback´s thoughts get stuck on a detail, replaying it like a needle stuck in a groove.
Softly a symphony, ´Deserto Meraviglioso´ shifts like sand, scorpion tails of synthesizer squiggle punctuating the return of that almost oppressive metronome. ´Emanzione´ is a bouquet of flowers whose colours become confused by light filtering through a stained glass window – too many colours clash and contrast to understand them as beautiful or not. Negotiating crawlspaces and catwalks, the second path is the final one, a beautifully constructed drone-cum-field recording, ritual silver sluicing static, but it is not an exit, not by any means.