Renato Rinaldi studied drama, composition and electronic music. After a number of years working as an actor he began composing music for theatre, radio dramas and video installations. He has produced several radio plays, documentaries and reportages for the Italian national broadcasting radio (RAI). In music, his work focuses primarily on the relationship between sound and environment.
I will here report the result of a recent conversation with him about the way he inacts and makes use of field recordings in his work.
His approach could be described as one single body with three heads.
First, he sometimes feels the need to consider sounds as just sounds; it’s trivial but maybe worth remembering that in our daily routine we hear ‘events’ as well as sounds. When we hear a car approaching us, its sound tells us more: ‘do not cross the street now!’ than ‘listen to me!’. The acoustic patterns we perceive correspond for us to a variety of sound-producing events and their attributes. Understanding the link between structured sounds and their sources is a fundamental step for us to deal with the world around us: in the past this had a lot to do with survival, not so much in the ‘schizophonic’ world we live in now..
The reason why mainstream cinema and theatre make a ‘functional’ use of sounds is exactly because we are used to never listen to sounds as phenomena, but as mere signs of events happening in the world..
On the contrary, Rinaldi is interested in the way sometimes sound just makes air vibrate. It doesn’t matter what produced this waves; some sounds feature an amazing timbre, space and inner structure (some rough sounds already sound like ‘compositions’.. ). Just the way a sound reaches us, or the way it gets captured by the microphone (there are more or less ‘phonogenic’ sounds..) can be worth being noticed, collected and listened to.
What follows is an example of this kind of ‘phenomenal’ interest. I remember Renato coming once to my studio to listen to these heavily bass recordings because a ‘client’ of mine just offered me, as a gift!, a couple of dismissed giant Genelec’s studio monitoring speakers from the 80’s, with super lows excursion. I remember my stomach being shaken by the deep cave’s resonances.. Please listen to it only if huge speakers are available:) (not even headphones can produce the ‘listening by bones’ that this recording deserve..)
cave’s recording by Renato Rinaldi for The desert islands of the Mediterranean – A project by Amedeo Martegani, Armin Linke, Giovanna Silva, Giuseppe Ielasi, Renato Rinaldi, Giulia Di Lenarda
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Secondly, in line with concrete music, although well avoiding academic mannerisms, Renato is interested in collecting sounds for then re-using them in electro-acoustic compositions, as processed or un-processed sources.
I’m not shure if I agree with those for whom editing sounds (the act of choosing smaller sections within longer sequences) would be a ‘non process’, and adding a 20 seconds reverb or pass sounds into a grain synthesiser would be a ‘process’..
In any case, Renato is somehow interested in giving the form of compositions to the rough matter he recorded.
Here is an example of this approach: the following excerpt, taken from Dyed in the Grain (co-released by the great Senufo and Entr’acte imprints), is entirely composed from sounds processed from recordings made during the manufacturing of ceramic tiles: from prime material collection to the hammering of the final test tile. Recorded, processed and composed in August 2005; re-arranged in May 2009. Mixed by Renato Rinaldi and Giuseppe Ielasi.
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A third way of making use of field recordings, for Renato Rinaldi, is about the human voice and life stories. Be it an old man sitting on a chair in a valley who’s voice is echoed by a cliff, or a passer-by telling the facts of his life to the microphone, Renato is strongly attracted by the sound produced by human bodies in the form of voices. In Rinaldi’s radio works emerge a strong connection between the voice’s ‘signifier’ and the ‘signified’ these embodied words produce. Voice possesses sort of ‘sound wrinkles’, traces of one’s life history, regional accents, loud or soft tones, ways of breathing between words..
Listen to Ermes, Lidie, Vilma and Elsa:
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Apart from all of the above considerations, Rinaldi was born, grew up and still lives in Friuli, an italian region where the presence of nature is all-encompassing. He travels a lot but his house is located in a small village surrounded by mountains.
Much before the reasons mentioned above, field recordings means recording in the field (a supposedly open one, even field recording indoors means forsaking one field to explore another one..).
That’s why when Rinaldi pointed out to me that he could never live in a big city, I was reminded of a sentence by the nomad Dersu Uzala in the Kurosawa’s film of the same title: when Dersu gets old and shortsighted, he quits the forrest for the city and as soon as he sees for the first time in his life the city’s buildings he asks: ‘How can people live in boxes?’