The Apennine mountain footpaths

September 2021. During a restorative residency at The Museum of Loss and Renewal, the footpaths surrounding Collemacchia were explored, and their sounds were recorded with a handheld mic setup. Along these routes, my feet walked. And in improvised moments, drawings were made inspired by sight but also by sound. These are a selection of my drawings that resulted from connecting time and a place to its embedded soundscape. I explore bodily gesture, with improvisation and the inclusion of all sonic and visual disturbance that I see, hear and feel in those moments.

I have also added here some basic edits of sounds recorded along these routes and of some others. These were experiments in the making with a home-made mic setup and a new sound recorder.

8th Sept 2021: The band that played from village to village. You could hear them across the valley.
9th Sept 2021: Fireworks echoing across the valley
10th Sept 2021: From Filignano to Collemacchia – uphill in the dark
11th Sept 2021: Walking to the Devoziani on the mountainside path
FILIGNANO OLD TOWN – drawing by sw
20th Sept 2021: Sounds from the Ossuary looking down at the old town of Filignano

I sit on a stone ledge overlooking Filignano old town. I am high up on the hillside in a tranquil area having walked there from the residency base in Collemacchia. The path is a new one for me. The first time I trekked this route the sun dappled through the leaves of the trees adorning the sides of the path. Where I am is an ancient area that is called the Ossuary. An old ruined church, hidden for a long time through overgrown greenery, it has recently been cleared by local community members. There also lies an old ruined building that used to house the bones of the victims of the Black Death. The sounds I hear come from cowbells worn by the white local cows, distant dog barks, and general farming tractors and the occasional shout from people.

22nd Sept 2021: The daily Cow Parade in Filignano
23rd Sept 2021: Crickets at a Midnight Party
LOCAL GANG BY THE FIG TREE – drawing by sw

On one Sunday morning, I hear shouts and what sounds like a thousands horses. I jump out from my residency base and walk to a nearby walled garden that has a fig tree in the middle of it. There is a small road/path right next to it, and I try to look down the valley to see what the commotion is. The hooves of the horses come closer, louder and I step aside wondering what I will see (and in which direction). A whole gang of people riding on horses trot by from my right to my left, up the hill into the mountain path that takes you up into the hills. It was like a long line of cowboys riding in front of me, one by one. Once the gang disappears, I see Tracy taking photos of them. She says they are all local people and this catchup happens often. I then pick a green fig from the tree and eat it.

Ripe Green Figs
14th Sept 2021, 7am: a wild horse appears, the sound before the vision; and then disappears back up the mountains (another horsey scenario)
20th Sept 2021: The Path of Many Cats
Picking Fennel for making paper
More Fennel
Cutting Fennel into small pieces

Collemacchia is covered all over in wild fennel. They have a local delicious biscuit called Tarelli, made from this fennel. Outside, the sweet smell is divine, especially where there is a slight breeze, carrying the aroma to you. The plant is straw-like, long and holds a beautiful light green colour. One of the artists ( Ruth Gilmour) previously at the residency had used this fennel to make paper using old traditional ways. The residency house smelt beautiful for days. I offered to audio record the whole process from picking the fennel from the ground, cutting them to size, boiling them to a pulp, and finally to the final moulding into paper. At her presentation of work here, I put together a soundtrack that used the processing-material sounds.

17th Sept 2021: Thunderstorms (not on this walk though)
17th Sept 2021: The Rain after the Storm

The Museum of Loss and Renewal took us on a long sunny weekend walk that took us to special war sites via forest tracks; into the woods towards churches built on ancient miracle sightings; to medieval ruins through UNESCO double stone walls that lie on the mountain surfaces, and to neighbouring small villages that celebrate Mario Lanza, the famous opera singer. We walked through long fields of corn where we picked ripe figs that hung just along the side of the paths we walked. Passing more villages, and the local quarry, we ended up on a familiar mountainside route I have taken often, and one that would take you back home to the residency base. The whole trip took four hours.

A PRAYER IN THE AIA – drawing by sw

The Aia is a small green common area that is owned by the people of the village itself. They are in every village, and are often used for small festivals and the like. In Collemacchia, the aia is hidden away up a rocky and steep mountain path which recently was used for a mountain bike trail. There is a tiny stone ledge that surrounds it, where you can sit. I drew while sitting here, and listened to the sounds that guided my hands across the paper.

THE LOCALS CALL IT STONE – drawing by sw
Walking back from the Quarry, passing the goats and dogs

The white stone is the local building material. It is taken from the quarry lying not far from the mountain path that takes you there from the residency base. I am not sure if it currently being used, but the stone you walk on has cracks revealing tiny flowers. You have to pass a household that have a herd of goats with bells. They also have a few fierce sounding dogs. Keep passing by and up the hill and eventually you get to the quarry. I have been many times now. The quarry gives way to a forest/wooded area that takes you on a much longer path to the top of Pantano Hill. I have sat at this gateway listening through my headphones recording the environment. At some point at dusk, the howls of distant wolves come to your attention.