Malcolm McDowell, Massimo Pupillo, Gabriele Tinti – Songs Of Stone

Posted: 12 May 2023 in Albums
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Subsound Records – 10th March 2023

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s easy in the age of the Internet to conduct enough research behind the scenes to present oneself as having an extant k knowledge of a subject. It’s also a huge temptation to do this as a reviewer or critic, because there’s a certain expectation from audiences that if you’re going to proffer opinions on things, you ought to know what you’re talking about. It’s that knowledge and authority that ought to differentiate someone who presents insightful critiques from the boorish tosser down the pub – or, as is more common now, on social media who has an opinion on everything but talks out of their arse because they know nothing.

But life is an open-ended learning experience, and the day you stop learning, you’re effectively dead. And so it is that while I’m familiar with Malcolm McDowell, primarily for his role in A Clockwork Orange, and Massimo Pupillo of ZU, but not the Italian poet and essayist Gabriele Tinti – which is surprising given his prolific output and the immense reach of his work, especially considering that his career hasn’t been without controversy. Still, the fact he is prolific and has immense reach, as well as being a keen collaborator, explains the coming together of these three for a collaborative album, which finds McDowell reading Tinti’s works over music by Pupillo.

McDowell reads five pieces from the 2021 collection Ruins, dedicated to what he calls the “living sculpture of the actor”, ruminating on the distant past as it echoes through to the present. In keeping with the subject matter – where art and mythology of the ages provide evocative contemplation – there are weighty words, formulated with such syntax as to accentuate their gravity and import, and McDowell’s delivery does them admirable justice. As much as Tinti is given to elevated tone, there’s both a resonating sense of spirituality and an earthiness to his words, and McDowell reads with nuance, bringing the more visual aspects to the fore as he speaks of flesh and blood and bones wounds and exploding veins. There’s a physicality to the writing which possesses a rare potency, and as such, the words are well-suited to the context.

Pupillo’s atmospheric score, conjured using ‘a plethora of different sources, various synthesis, samples of eastern European choirs, processing McDowells’ voice,’ lends further layers of depth: at times choral and monastic voices rise and ring out against elongated drones, rich and organ-like, at others billows of sound creep like tendrils of fog.

Songs Of Stone may only be some twenty minutes in duration, with each side working nicely as a single, continuous soundwork punctuated by the spoken segments, but its grave intensity means that any longer would be difficult to digest. As it stands, Songs Of Stone feels perfectly formed.



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