Music

Italian Artist Carves Dance Music Out of a Mountain [Premiere]

Italian artist Neunau hits one of the Alps’ largest valleys to create elemental dance music captured inside a mountain forge.

by Charlie Schmidlin
26 May 2016, 2:00pm

Photo: Simon Artale. All images courtesy the artist, unless otherwise noted

After a 15-year stretch in Berlin and Milan, producing and performing electronic music in their respective scenes, Italian artist Sergio Maggioni stepped back, ditched his traditional recording methods, and traveled near his native northern Italy in search of something new. It was in the village of Bienno in Val Camonica—one of the largest valleys of the Alps—where he found it, glimpsing his old stomping grounds in a fresh light.

“I studied the history of my old environment, and I found out that there's a lot of iron in the middle of the mountains,” Maggioni tells The Creators Project over Skype. “So these villages are very traditional, peaceful places, but at the same time they have to compete with around 70 factories working for that iron. You can really hear [the hydraulic power hammers, or maglio] in the air as a neverending beat. People reported the village shaking because they were constantly going.”

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That nonstop beat soon planted an idea for Maggioni when he revisited the Forge Museum in Bienno, a tourist spot in the mountains where his parents took him as a child. “There was this tour guide with an elementary school class,” he said. “The guide showed them a working Maglio, and in the middle I noticed the kids start to dance. Seeing that I thought, ‘Why not record this?’”

From that idea sprang Neunau, a new moniker for Maggioni, and also the title of his debut EP for Parachute Records. Taking field recordings from the Forge Museum and creating, in the label’s words, the “rhythm of an incessant heartbeat," the EP’s four tracks are elemental dance music captured and created in the very same place.

Maggioni and his team have tracked their experience making the EP in a ten-minute documentary entitled Sounds From The Forge, which premieres today on The Creators Project. You’ll find the full video below, along with two cuts from the EP.

“We basically used the Forge base as a recording studio… there were two different locations, one to record and one to listen back to the material,” Maggioni explained, referring to his recording team of Piero Villa and Matteo Lavagna as well as five blacksmiths that operated—or “played”—the machinery. They booked three sessions: one to feel out the sound of the space, the second to put that knowledge into practice, and a third to patch in any missing details.

“We put microphones everywhere to catch different frequencies, and then recorded takes with different tempos and intentions,” Maggioni said. “It was like being the director of an orchestra and actually having the musicians there, altering the way they played it.”

Maggioni has already debuted cuts from the Neunau EP in a live setting, but with two different approaches. One is more of an ambient installation piece, in which Maggioni uses dishes and vases forged in Bienno as electronically altered percussion; the other plays as a more traditional techno set, as he manipulates the original takes from the Forge Museum.


Credit: Simone Artale

Neunau, the debut EP from Sergio Maggioni’s Neunau, will be released by Parachute on 12” vinyl and digital formats on May 27th. Click here for more info. 

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