Sabbion. ENRICO CONIGLIO
(Green Field Recordings 2013)
Review by Jay-Dea Lopez
There have been several studies by field recordists into the various tonalities of water – Enrico Coniglio’s latest work “Sabbion” may be one of the finest to join this body. Coniglio’s subject is the lagoons of his hometown, Venice. The title “Sabbion” refers to the sandy bottom that is characteristic of the Venetian tidal lagoons. The title, though providing context, does little to convey the poetry that Coniglio extracts from its depths.
Running at just over 14 minutes “Sabbion” is composed of three sections. The first of these features the steady motorised whirr of a boat as it sets off towards St. Erasmo Island. From this early section it is obvious that Coniglio knows his subject well. A lifetime of listening to the Venetian aquatic environment has enabled Coniglio to present sounds that are far from predictable. As the boat progresses to St. Erasmo Island the movement of water against its hull trickles in a light glissando while hydrophones inform the listener of the deeper engine sounds that prevail underwater. It is a perfect balance of pitch and timbre.
The boat arrives at St. Erasmo Island. Once the site of an 8th century port it is now a sparsely populated agricultural locale whose produce feeds much of Venice. The tranquillity of this island in comparison to central Venice is reflected through Coniglio’s discovery of quiet sounds being emitted from a half-submerged pipe. Water from the lagoon laps inside it creating an airy gurgling effect. Time is lost. Once the boat-traffic quietens we are left alongside the pipe as waves gently move in and out of its circumference. It is a curious sound, one made through the combination of industrial and natural elements.
The final section is introduced with a sudden increase in volume. We hear the rustle of plant-life as it sways in the wind, a dog barks in the background and the engine of a passing boat emerges from the far reaches of the lagoon. We are away from the sounds of the aquatic – the intimacy of the previous sections is broken.
Images of Venice are so prevalent in popular culture that we could be forgiven for thinking that we already know its canals, piazzas, churches and bridges. However Coniglio presents us with an alternate vision, a sonic portrait of the very water that sustains, and threatens to destroy, this great city. With so many dominant sounding objects at his disposal Coniglio has instead amplified the minutiae of Venice, the tiny melodies and rhythms of water that normally go unnoticed. It is an intimate and unique portrait of both place and matter by a talented field recordist and composer. “Sabbion” is a work that deserves our closest attention.