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Neunau, the artist who forges music using Val Camonica iron

Musician Neunau created an album, recorded in the Forge Museum in Bienno, using only water, iron and microphones. All documented in a powerful video.

Artist Sergio Maggioni, with his new project Neunau, has recorded an album of electronic music at the Forge Museum in Bienno, Val Camonica, Italy, using exclusively natural materials including water and local iron and with the help of a few metalworkers. After spending sixteen years between Milan and Berlin, Maggioni has gone back to the valley of the Camunni and cave art where he was born and from which he drew inspiration to compose and record the CD. And he’s documented everything in this video.

The EP, called Neunau, like Maggioni’s moniker, was recorded in the forge of the museum of Bienno, a traditional place where metal workers produced agricultural machine tools. Many microphones have been placed everywhere in the stone room to catch different frequencies, as well as an external microphone that caught the sound of the water coming from the Grigna stream. The water drives a mill that is connected to an enormous hammer (maglio) through a transmission shaft. The maglio beats on an anvil allowing to manufacturing white-hot iron.

 

Neunau blackksmiths bienno
Neunau and blacksmiths at work in the forge of the museum, Bienno, Italy © Simone Artale

 

Each of these activities produces a different sound that Neunau used as the rhythmic base for his project. The beat of the machinery, the (white) noise of the stream water that moves it as well as the sound of the objects created with the machinery – including the pots and metallic plates also used in the live performance – let the listeners travel through ancient ceremonies and contemporary dance havens.

 

“These villages are very traditional, peaceful places, but at the same time they have to compete with around 70 factories working for that iron – Maggioni says – You can really hear [the hydraulic power hammers] in the air as a neverending beat. People reported the village shaking”. Yet the mechanical and constant beat of traditional forges, in contrast with the sacredness and peacefulness of the valleys, should make Neunau’s work more charming.

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