Spire 4 – Pietro Riparbelli “4 Churches”

4 tracks – mp3 download – 42:09
Mastered by Giuseppe Verticchio

Track listing and notes:

1. The Dome, Orvieto

I was in Orvieto for 3 days and recorded some sound during the morning, trying to avoid the tourists. I always try to find the cathedral without too many people but at the same time there must been some, because their sounds allow us to perceive the reverb of the space.
Moreover, I’ve recorded voices from a choir during a celebration and I’ve utilised a sample of the organ of the cathedrals. The Dome of Orvieto is a fantastic gothic church. Orvieto is an Etruscan city and it’s on a hill in which caves were excavated by the Etruscans. During the Second World War the Nazis didn’t bomb Orvieto because of the amazing cathedral that they wanted to take back to Germany!

2. The Basilica, Assisi

I was for one week and recorded sounds within the interior of the Basilica where the relics of Saint Francis are kept. It is a really dark place where there are a lot of passages with stairs to reach the crypt. There are many frescoes by Giotto – really wonderful. It is a place of meditation and there is an incredible silence, although you have to find the Basilica without tourists early in the morning. I was seated in front of the stone of the relics for a long time each day. There are a lot of guards that control everything – especially people like me who were there everyday. At the end of the track you can hear a chant by nuns recorded from within the Basilica. They were behind a window and it was a fantastic experience.

3. The Cathedral of Saint Germain, Paris

This was the first Cathedral of Paris built around 500 A.D.
I found within this cathedral a crazy English woman that was telling stories and laughing to herself. I stayed close to her and she thought I wanted to kill her; so she attacked and punched me. I’ve recorded organs and chanting voices. The distorted sounds are pitched organs.

4. Notre Dame, Paris

This is the least organised composition because it is almost impossible to recorded the reverb of this place because of the tourist that are there all the day at every hour. But I’ve managed to record an organ session and a mass.




Sven Schlijper (Netherlands):


Audiodrome (Italy):

Con questa uscita per il progetto Spire (iniziativa sotto l’ombrello della Touch, con la quale a una serie di sound artist viene chiesto di confrontarsi col suono dell’organo, “l’imperatore degli strumenti”), Pietro pubblica quattro tracce realizzate presso il duomo di Orvieto, la basilica d’Assisi, la cattedrale di Saint Germain e Notre Dame. Se in Metaphonic Portrait i suoni della chiesa sono sopraffatti e coperti da quelli “riportati in superficie” delle onde corte (l’obiettivo della sigla K11), qui i rapporti di forza si rovesciano: sono i cori, gli strumenti musicali, i passi e le eco a diventare oggetto – quando serve – di manipolazione, per essere trasportati in un contesto onirico e lontano, ovattato, solo avvicinabile alla realtà e non a essa sovrapponibile, come accade nelle tracce di Caretaker, nelle quali la musica sembra arrivare da un ricordo confuso e non da un disco. Alcuni frangenti sono più aggressivi, perché vengono alzati i livelli di rumorosità ed elettricità, ma si tratta di (salutari) eccezioni e non della regola. Impagabile e inquietante l’involontario featuring di una vecchia pazza inglese nel corso della traccia su Saint Germain: la signora si è sentita minacciata da Pietro e l’ha picchiato, rischi del mestiere che però tornano utili.
Forse non siamo al livello d’efficacia delle uscite a nome K11, ma – visto il formato solo download dell’uscita – la si può considerare come testimonianza utile di una tappa del più ampio percorso di ricerca dell’autore.

PAUME features: Pietro Riparbelli

The moving and at times quite haunting sound art pieces arising from a conceptual idea, sound art pieces related to the world of contemporary art too, by Italian composer, artist and musician Pietro Riparbelli are principally linked to the perception of the sonic landscape and of the inner state(s) of consciousness, as related to other dimensions of awareness.

His K11-project deals with the world of radio signals, trans-communication and other invisible phenomena. Field recordings and shortwave radio receivers picking up signals, make up the dimensions and uncanny atmospheres captured in his compositions, bustling with the dynamics of noise and drone. (He has also worked with EVP and PAUME recommends the cd-release ‘The Ghost Orchid – An Introduction to EVP’ to all uniniated…) Under the PT-R moniker Riparbelli navigates his way through a world of rhythmic landscapes using environmental sounds (by means of field recordings), electronically sampling these real life and / or natural sonic sources into rhythmic patterns, frames, shapes and phases.

Riparbelli, a graduated philosopher and multi-media artist based in Livorno (Tuscany), has seen his works published by Touch, Radical Matters Ed/Label, Old Europe Cafe amongst numerous others. He has performed live at a wide array of festivals and art events, most notably at Equinox Festival (London) and the Fundació Tàpies (Barcelona).

Pietro Riparbelli’s study of the phenomenology of perception with particular reference to the dichotomy between the visible and the invisible is closely connected to his conceptual address of the ‘sonic landscape’. He delves into deep investigation of particular places, taking in the history of the location as well as the current site specifics to reconfigure a sonic panorama (or diorama) through its inherent transcendental aspects in order to create a dimension beyond the purely or merely sonic: a total perceptive and receptive capturing of the place and its visible and invisible tangents, transporting the listener to a new and hitherto literally unheard form, kind and ‘content’ of sensory experience and therewith: perception. From a specific time and place, to another (listening) time and place and in between, found (!) in Riparbelli’s transmutation and compostional interpretation: an altogether new and invisible (maybe even: non-existing) ‘vista’…

Recently released by Touch, as part of Spire, Riparbelli’s ‘4 Churches’ download only release marks a new endeavour into the nether- or, better even: upper world (literally here) of the sonic characteristics of – nomen est omen – four churches or cathedrals in Europe.

In Orvieto’s Dome, early in the morning, before the massive tourist influx, he captured the spatial reverb, which he mixed with the choir singing and samples from the church’s organ. Impressive spatial reverb is captured in a totally different way in the interior of the Basilica in Assisi: a dark, cavernous place. A venue for meditation, reverence and of incredible silence too, with prized relics from bygone ages on display; with a daunting and haunting enshrined and thus mute(d) echo towards and in the present; forever silent, eternally silenced?

In the first church built in Paris, France around 500 A.D. – the Cathedral of Saint Germain – organs and chanting voices fill the sonic room. At the infamous Notre Dame (Paris, France) tourists disturb the solemn peace and quiet of the immense reverberation of the cathedral at almost all hours, but Riparbelli managed to catch an organ session and a mass at this one of the most prominent churches in the world.

Riparbelli’s ‘4 Churches’ presents a sonic architecture: immersive and impressive, even to listeners that don’t know the massive and cavernous constructions in Assisi or Paris. His field recordings are treated electronically, but, wholly different from most so-called ‘dark ambient’ artists, his work is not buried in, drowned by, covered under: the artificial glum of so-called ‘gothic cave reverb’. Riparbelli’s is the factual, the actual upper worldly reverb of the architectural structures of the churches or cathedrals; cut-up, put back together, assembled, disassembled, stone by stone sonically building the church or cathedral: wholly sonically.

What you hear, is no longer what you get. What you hear, is what’s there in the building; plus: more, much more. You see with your ears: the enormous resonating building. The sanctity and history of the specific places; of the relics enshrined; of the sacred music played; the hymns sung, is immersively impressed upon the listener. These are no netherworlds in hellish caves; no paradises lost. These are places of hearing without seeing; places of knowing without ‘evidence’: places of believing, true places of: belief. Places of the belief of seeing by hearing, too; QED.

The church or cathedral historically is considered to be one of the main visual focal points of a city’s landscape; just see the spires protruding into thin air… How fitting to have Touch present not only BJ Nilsen’s ‘Invisible City’, but also Pietro Riparbelli’s likewise invisible, but evenly so pregnant and remarkable sonic focal point in the ongoing Spire series.

Pietro Ripbarelli’s ’4 Churches’ is available for download in the Touch Shop.

[PS: PAUME recommends: listening on headphones or hi-end equipment to catch the minutest of genuine real life reverb details which bring to life these amazing (acoustic) architectural structures.]

kulturterrorismus (Germany):

Pietro Riparbelli (K11), der in Fachkreisen oft mit Bad Sector Vergleich findet, gehört mit seinen Werken “Waiting For Dark- ness”, “Metaphonic Portrait 1230 A.D.” & “Sacred Wood” wie der Split “The Hauting Triptych”, die er in Kooperation mit dem Franzosen Philippe Petit bastelte, zu den absoluten Aufsteigern des Jahres 2010. In alle dem schönen Überfluss, den der Italiener in 2010 kon- zipierte, erschien auch die sehr persönliche Arbeit 4 Churches, wofür er Feldaufnahmen nutzte, welche er im Dom von Orvieto, der Basilika von Assisi, der Kathedrale von (Paris) St. Germain & dem Notre Dame aufzeichnete!

Mit einer gewissen Arroganz lehnt das englische Label Touch sämtliche Demos ab und geht nach eigenen Angaben ausschließlich direkt auf die passenden Künstler wie Pietro Riparbelli zu, dessen “4 Churches” als hoch qualitativer Download erschien, der zum fairen Preis von 5 Pfund (5, 20 Euro) über den Tisch geht.

Ohne irgendwem auf die Füße steigen zu wollen, stelle ich die These auf, dass “4 Churches” nur Personen gefällt und berührt, bei welchen der Anblick (& die Atmosphäre) von riesigen Kirchen eine totale Faszination bzw. Vereinnahmung auslöst, ansonsten “verpufft” sämtliche Authentizität der Ton- & Sprachsamples, die diese Publikation ausmacht bzw. auszeichnet, ab dem Drücken der Play-Taste.

Ob “4 Churches” überhaupt eine Veröffentlichung im üblichen Sinne darstellt, müssen Hörer am Besten selbst beurteilen, die hier Feldaufnahmen mit unzähligen menschlichen Sequenzen erwartet, welche der Protagonist mit vereinzelten Einsätzen von “dronigen” Ambientschleifen akzentuierte, wodurch überwältigende Hörkulissen entstehen, deren Dichte auf die jeweilige “letzte Bank” des Gotteshauses versetzt, wo man Führungen, Chöre von Pinguinen, Messen usw. hautnah miterlebt – Wahnsinn!

Wer das absolut Besondere schätzt, erfährt mittels „4Churches“ intensives Kopfkino, das von der ersten Sekunde an tief in seinen Bann saugt, wenn sie/ er für diese besonderen Stimmungen empfänglich ist, welche bei genauerer Herangehensweise den “Schlüssel” zur Religion liefern.

Anspieltipps? Love it or hate it! – im Fall von “4 Churches” gibt es keine Zwischenstufen, sondern nur Ja oder Nein!

Fazit (Germany):

Pietro Riparbelli offenbart auf “4 Churches” seine komplette “Klasse”, obwohl die Mehrheit des Releases “fremde” Strukturen bestimmen, bloß diesen muss man erst einmal so verarbeiten, dass daraus ein einnehmendes Highlight entsteht – meine absolute Empfehlun

The Silent Ballet (UK):

In a recent posting on The Wire magazine’s blog, Tony Herrington highlighted the number of avant-garde music festivals being held in churches – in short, he was not particularly in favour of the idea, preferring that curators and artists look a bit harder for suitable spaces rather than just rolling up at the local cathedral, laptop under the arm. However, one can understand the bonds that have developed between experimental music and churches – for the latter, it is a few more pounds in the kitty, a useful source of income in the face of dwindling congregations. For the organisers, even though the shock factor has now faded, it is a space with good acoustics, often in a central location, and for the artists themselves it is a chance to play in a different environment in front of a quiet, even reverential audience. One of the key benefits of performing in a sacred space is that the crowd will behave itself, without the constant hubbub of chatter that blights many venues. Perhaps it is years of unconscious conditioning, but people behave themselves in churches whether or not they are believers; one is guaranteed a quiet few minutes in the middle of a busy, noisy city by slipping into the nearest chapel.

Of course, the larger and more popular the building, the more people there will be, so a cathedral or church can often find itself home to tourists shuffling around, looking at the architecture and the memorials and pondering how many people have trod here across the centuries. It’s that atmosphere Pietro Riparbelli captures on 4 Churches, the fourth in Touch’s Spire series of downloads, although how much is intention and how much is accident is hard to judge – the sleevenotes suggest he was looking for pure silence yet the results say otherwise. On the opening piece “The Dome, Orvieto”, he attempted to record in the morning when the church was quietest, and even so it is dominated by the sound of shoe on stone, low whispered conversation and the ambient rumble of the resonating acoustics. On “The Cathedral Of Saint Germain, Paris”, Riparbelli is accosted by a tourist he tries to record – so the sound of punches being thrown by this ‘crazy English woman’ is included, acting as some sort of focal point for the quartet of recordings. (As an aside, the woman’s accent sounds more American than English; her words about assassination seem to channel Marlon Brando from Apocalypse Now.)

The recordings on 4 Churches are treated by Riparbelli so that the drones created by the spaces themselves are leavened by samples of choirs singing, making full use of the acoustics of the buildings. They are not, in the end, field recordings, but sound paintings – perhaps, in the case of the ‘crazy woman’, Riparbelli is making an audio equivalent of cinéma-vérité. His canvas is the acoustic resonance of the space recorded, coloured in with swathes of crowd noise and delicate touches of choir and organ. It is an extremely effective way of capturing the spirit of these buildings, distilled into ten-minute pieces.
Riparbelli’s work is often to be found in art galleries and installations, places that – like cathedrals – require peace and contemplation to appreciate the subtleties. It is because of his work as a sound artist that 4 Churches makes similar demands upon the listener. If played too quietly, the pieces slip by unnoticed, the fragile detail lost amidst the sounds of everyday living. Yet when played at a decent volume (headphones recommended), the quartet of pieces become living, breathing spaces. One can walk around in them, hear what Riparbelli hears, see what he sees, and be equally disturbed by confrontation. As one would spend time in a church or a gallery in quiet meditation, one must approach this album in a similar frame of mind – not everyone will be able to make this commitment, but those who do will reap great rewards.

textura (USA):

It was a bit of a stroke of genius on Pietro Riparbelli’s part to exploit the vast sonic potential of church and cathedral settings in a field recordings-based project. The Livorno, Tuscany-based sound artist brings four such spaces to life in recordings originally made between 2005 and 2010 in Orvieto, Assisi, and Paris. Like all works based on field recordings, his 4 Churches (a download only release in Touch’s Spire series) provides the listener with an out-of-body experience, such that one is able to immersively inhabit the space without physically visiting the locale. But instead of focusing primarily on church organ playing and choir singing that are the conventional focal points one associates with the architectural contexts in question, Riparbelli instead brings to life the spaces themselves and the incredible reverberance of the huge architectural structures.

In “The Dome, Orvieto,” Riparbelli recorded within the space—a gothic church located in the Etruscan city of Orvieto—during the early morning in order to avoid tourists, but even so ample ambient noises of people milling about abound—shuffling, doors closing, whispers, a child’s laughter—as accompaniment to the choir singing and the church’s organ (the latter actually a sample). Reverb rumbles throughout the piece in a manner that suggests a low-flying plane is passing overhead in slow-motion. To produce “The Basilica, Assisi,” Riparbelli spent a week within the cavernous interior of the Basilica where the prized relics of Saint Francis are kept, and encountered dark passages and stairways leading to the crypt as well as frescoes by Giotto. What results in sonic form is a shimmering meditation where evidence of a human presence is still audible—voices, the clump of footsteps, and muffled announcements are clearly heard—and that is countered near the piece’s close by the heavenly murmur of chanting nuns.

In “The Cathedral of Saint Germain, Paris,” whose focus is the first church built in Paris (around 500 A.D.), pitched organs appear augmented by the words of a seemingly unstable woman whom we even hear say to Riparbelli, “Now, I know you plan to assassinate me, and it’s no good. You are going to die, not me, and you’re halfway to being a ghost…” before she attacks and punches him. Such incidents are reminders that so-called sacred spaces are also—despite the presence of security guards—spaces that still allow for the unexpected and irrational to appear. In this setting, too, more than in any of the others, interventions by Riparbelli are most conspicuously present, in this case in the form of a rippling drone that escalates in volume and intensity during the piece’s second half. Given how much human traffic moves through it on any given day, one naturally would expect “Notre Dame, Paris” to be one of the most intensely active of the four pieces, even if each is filled with activity of one kind or another. Church organ, ambient echo, people noises, and choir mass singing combine to make it a non-stop stream of mutating sound.

Though Riparbelli’s recording results in a less direct musical experience, the results are arresting nonetheless: if one hasn’t actually walked through the spaces, listening to the four pieces provides a convincing simulation of the experience; if one has, on the other hand, visited the settings, listening to the material enables one to easily project oneself back into the locations.