Rumori da monumenti is a portrait of Johannesburg conceived together with the writer Ivan Vladislavic and the director Minky Schlesinger, both of whom have lived and worked in the city for many years. I first encountered Johannesburg in the pages of Ivan’s book Portrait with Keys. Later he introduced me to the city itself and we chose 11 fragments and a coda from the book for me to incorporate into my work. My musical accompaniment consists of 11 brief, contrasting textures, always “corrupted” by very noisy personal acoustic memories.
Minky Schlesinger recorded the extracts, choosing a Johannesburg voice, Russel Savadier, and working at the Area 5.1 sound studio. Minky’s nuanced interpretation, reflected in the fine modulation of the voice, and the special acoustic conception of the recording made it a sound-object, a postcard from a faraway world where future and past are concentrated and implosive. As they clash, they generate fictional rivers of noise, both natural and artificial. The sound of traffic breaks in from all sides. Abandoned monuments speak.
The extracts are grouped in pairs around a dense core of images. These pairs are linked thematically and may be imagined as a shell of concentric layers.
1, 11: Two views of the city. We move in small circles and see things from close up, or spiral up into the air to see the whole picture from a distance.
2, 10: Two sections on mining. In the beginning, we follow the underground reef; at the end, we fall away into the depths.
3, 9: Two sections about division. Initially the focus is on defended, unbreachable frontiers; later it is on passing through barriers to find the wide world.
4, 8: Two sections on materiality and excess.
5, 7: Two sections on the city as an island or place of water.
6: The central roll of images.
The coda confirms the structure and themes of the piece: “For a moment the shell of the city was pressed to my ear.”