Paying Southern Europe a Visit? Here’s a Sound-focused Guide To Various Cities
Planning a trip to Southern Europe? Here’s a different kind of guide: a sound-focused one!
From church acoustics to music conferences, make sure to keep an eye out for these sonic gems in Milan, Barcelona, Athens and Zadar during your trip.
LUIGI RUSSOLO’S MILAN
History of sound art was made when Luigi Russolo first published his 1913 manifesto L'arte Dei Rumori (The Art of Noises) right from Milan. The futurist set up his “Intonarumori” instruments in a laboratory in the city center.
That said, the Northern Italian city has continued to be an exciting sonic hub.
For example, the FOG Performing Arts Festival – held annually at the Triennale Museum – features a myriad of sound art shows as well as theatre, dance and performing arts. Among a host of other shows, the 2023 edition features Caterina Barbieri with the visual artist Marcel Weber.
Another event worth checking out is the Video Sound Art Festival, which is often housed in exciting locations – like a Planetarium!
For something a little more rowdy, make your way to Terraforma. This experimental music festival is held annually in the summer at Villa Arconati, a heritage palace with massive gardens to get lost in.
Getting ready to head to Milan? Tune it to the city’s beloved Radio Raheem, the web radio with a “cosmic perspective”.
View of Teatro La Scala. Photo: Nikos D. Karabelas
There is absolutely no shortage of opera houses in Italy, but if you had to pick just one, let it be the Teatro Alla Scala in Milan. It’s one of the leading opera houses in the world, if not the most famous.
At the Fondazione Prada’s “Le Studio D’Orphée”, visitors can attend the screening of filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard’s Le Livre D’image in the actual place where the film was post-produced – and where its music was recorded.
BARCELONA BEYOND FESTIVALS
Boasting exceptional acoustics is the Basilica De Santa Maria Del Mar, the only remaining church in the city built in pure Catalan Gothic style.
The best part? It often hosts musical concerts.
It’s pretty much impossible to visit Barcelona without a sighting of an architectural work by Gaudi. But Lluís Domènech i Montaner deserves some attention, too.
The architectural protagonist designed the Palau De La Música Catalana, a concert hall built in Catalan modernism style featuring acoustics specially configured for chamber music. The hall was awarded World Heritage Site status by Unesco.
Palau de la Música Catalana. Photo: Tudoi61
View of BruumRuum!. Photo: Julia.bosque.01
If you visit the Plaça De Les Glories square between 9.30pm and 11pm, you’ll likely encounter BruumRuum!, a public sound and light installation by David Torrents and Artec3 in collaboration with LedsControl.
With this, 522 inground linear luminaires are spread across an area of 3,300 square meters, which light up to people’s voices as well as ambient noises around. Barcelona suddenly feels like Times Square.
For some relaxing museum time to unwind, head to the Museu De La Música where you’ll find over 500 musical instruments – including some by the famed guitarist and guitar-maker Antonio De Torres.
And of course, Barcelona’s Primavera, Sónar and OFFSónar events need no introduction. One logistical tip? Book a place to stay way (way) in advance.
NETWORKING IN ATHENS
The Onassis Foundation is one of the largest in Europe, and their programme frequently has sound-focused shows worth exploring. The foundation also runs Movement Radio. You don’t need to be in Athens to tune in!
For those with a penchant for music hall acoustics, the International Conference On Auditorium Acoustics takes place at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center.
Besides the conference, the Renzo Piano-designed centre has a lot more on offer, like the light, water and music show at its dancing foundations, as well as recurrent events like Jazz Chronicles.
For those who work in the music industry, Athens Music Week (AMW) is a weeklong conference (typically scheduled in June) that focuses on music industry experts, musicians, promoters, artistes and more.
At the National Museum Of Contemporary Art Athens, you’ll find works by the likes of Bruce Nauman, Nam June Paik, Bill Viola and much more.
SOUND, SEA AND SUNSHINE IN ZADAR
Spending summer at the picturesque Dalmatian coast? Don’t miss the seaside city of Zadar, where an engineering feat designed by Croatian architect Nikola Basic was completed in 2005.
The Sea Organ, one of the best global sound places, is an experimental architectural sound object. With its thirty-five tubes, the “instrument” plays music from the motion of the waves.
View of Nikola Basic’s Sea Organ. Photo: dronepicr
Nearby in Tisno, Love International – the successor of the popular Garden Festival and “a true musical paradise nestled on the idyllic Dalmatian coastline”.
While there, make a stop at the Church of St Donatus, where Renaissance and Baroque music sound particularly exceptional with the hall’s unique acoustics.
And if you hang around People's Square (Narodni trg) long enough, you’ll eventually run into talented street musicians.
Cover: A view from above to the Sea Organ in Zadar, Croatia. Credit: dronepicr
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Writer | Bana Bissat
Bana Bissat is a Milan-based writer who reports on sound art for Sound of Life. She has written for Flash Art, Lampoon, and Cultured. @banabissat