Miguel Carvalhais and Pedro Tudela were among the co-founders of the great Portuguese label Crónica, and make sonic artworks together as @c. Their latest release came out of an artistic residency in the Barsento region of Italy, and focuses on making audible the landscape and geography they found there. Walking steps give way to a similarly rhythmic hammering of stone on stone, then more footsteps scrunching through the grass as aircraft rumble by overhead. As the single half-hour piece develops the rhythm is taken on by a swirling hiss and metallic rattle, before petering out into a reverberant dripping and sloshing.
Without knowing anything about the Barsento region except what can be gleaned from listening to this artwork, I imagine the following: quite a high-altitude location, very dry and open to the wind, but not so high or cold enough to prevent vegetation from flourishing. A landscape without much in the way of human inhabitants, and not so many birds or large mammals either. Caves — dripping, trickling, sloshing caves. A certain remoteness; a calming quietness rather than a stony silence. Dust and sunshine, white powdery stone. The sounds provide enough clues to construct an image, to map out a space, the degree of correspondence of which with the geographic space of the Barsento region remains more or less conjectural.
It would be very easy for me to look Barsento up on the Internet, and then judge how ‘accurate’ this picture conjured in my mind by Carvalhais and Tudela’s wandering geographic narrative really is — or at least how it compares with other mediations of the region. I’ve resisted doing this, despite the documentary claims made by the work and the accompanying web blurb. “Re.Barsento” is such an evocative work, such a vivid auditory tale, that I think I would prefer to keep hold of my imaginary Barsento, the one that exists only in my memory, despite never having been there, and in my ears, as I listen.