2011-02-10: A visit to Milan, Italy, and the Cimitero Monumentale. Cemetery monuments in bronze are rarer in the US, but the notion of angels as subjects appeals.

A variation on the equestrian bronze theme suggested itself when we encountered one of Milan’s more unusual manifestations of the Belle Époque, the Cimitero Monumentale. We’re finding human scale bronze, while visually arresting, is often a bit pedestrian in sound quality, allowing almost every ambient sound in the environment to be picked up without much distortion to make it interesting…

…but more so when you have an unproven, improvised microphone in your kit and you’ve onbly got a mobile phone along for recording. What I intended was another collection of contact-miked bronze statuary. What I got was something else: urban ambient.

File EX10 Interviewing Angels 015 at freesound.org

In this recording you can hear the characteristic hollow-bronze resonance at first, but it fades quickly as a nearby emergency siren crescendos. I’m pretty sure there were several mechanisms at work:

  • It was difficult to get a tight seal around the tine Sony X10 microphone aperture and the statues. This is essential to shield the mic from wind and airborne ambience
  • The Experia X10 is designed for phone calls and has aggressive automatic gain control (AGC). I found impossible to disable in apps and suspect a hardware-based—or at least low-level software— implementation
  • Tape Machine and other android recording apps automatically detects microphone presence and also supports AGC, so the setup may have been confounding the software
  • There is always the humbling likelihood of operator error

The whole experience prompted a more rigorous examination of the mobile-phone recording capability of the era, notably our Listening to Jun Kaneko project.

This is still a great walk if you’re in the area. And I’ve got an excuse to return.

Interviewing Angels at Milan's Cimitero Monumentale
Four lions support an obelisk ion Milan's Cimitero Monumentale

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Audio files on this page now licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License 2011, 2020 D A Ayer.

Photos this page © 2011 Martin Hatas. Used with permission.

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