Sonora Commedia (2009)


Eerie and beautiful wordless pieces.  Mostly experimental electronic, ambient, cinematic, and new classic, but also some drone, techno, alt rock, and metal tracks (the latter few genres especially for Inferno).

The 3 CDs have pieces written for all 100 cantos by 33 different musicians.  Each musician wrote for a given canto number in each canticle– Krell, for example, wrote for Inferno 20, Purgatorio 20, and Paradiso 20. For Inferno 34, however, a group of musicians collaborated.

Full album on Spotify, or available for purchase here.

Marco Brambilla: “Civilization” and “Creation”

marco-brambilla-films“…The spectacular spectacle of a video loop, Civilization (Megaplex) by Marco Brambilla, playing in the elevators there has been blowing minds and starting conversations with its epically silly and demonic appeal since it was installed in 2009.
An equally wild piece in 3-D, Creation (Megaplex), opened at the Nicole Klagsbrun gallery in Chelsea last week, the third of a trilogy that makes art from film…
Indeed, all the people who entered seemed to enjoy themselves, almost like children in a tree house. They remarked on characters and scenes scrolling past in the animated tapestry, which was inspired by Dante’s Inferno, but which many critics have compared to the work of Hieronymus Bosch. The synthesized soundtrack was pure epic Hollywood kitsch.”    –Bob Morris, The New York Times, January 30, 2013

marco-brambilla-inferno-film-standard-hotel-new-york“Guests at the swank new Standard Hotel, on the western edge of Manhattan, are treated to an otherworldly piece of eye candy: ‘Civilization,’ a depiction of heaven, hell, and purgatory created by video artist Marco Brambilla. Inspired by Dante’s Inferno, it’s cobbled together from hundreds of scenes, lifted from movies; the piece runs as one enormous video collage. As the elevator rises, the sequence, running from an overhead projector, ascends to heaven. As the elevator descends, the video runs in reverse, ending in hell.” [. . .]    –Cliff Kuang, Fast Company, June 4, 2009

Contributed by Patrick Molloy

ABC’s Radio Poolside Story: “Star for Sale” (2009)

patrick-holland-star-for-sale-abc-radio-poolside-story-2009I followed the crowd down Fernberg Road onto Boys St where men in suits and shining shoes were selling stars. At first I did not know that was what they were doing. One suited man stood on a soapbox. The others sat behind a row of telescopes and their index fingers directed eyes about the firmament. I thought they were an astronomy club. But people were writing cheques; and a great celestial map clipped to an escritoire had pins and pen-marks all over it. Then I realised the man on the soapbox was conducting an auction.
I saw the weakest star of the Cross go for $100 000; someone whispered to the effect that he had bought the four major ones and was not greatly attached to this last only he needed it to complete the piece.
‘What would the Cross be without it?’ said the auctioneer to encourage the man through the bidding. The man intended the famed constellation for a light-feature in his garden. I felt a little sad for the ghosts of Cook and Magellan, lost upon dark waters below a bewildering sky.
In the background a ruckus was being subdued by the agency. Two men and an agent were fighting. It seemed the first star Dante saw when he emerged from the Inferno had been sold in a previous lot and there was a dispute over its authenticity. The agent was trying to reassure the man that though Florence was indeed in the Northern hemisphere, Dante had walked down through the Earth and emerged on the other side. The man’s companion was showing the agent Canto XXXIV and the line where Dante mysteriously turns back in space and for a while believes he is going deeper into the pit.
. . .so the night proceeded and all the stars were sold. One by one.
The final lot was a small fleck of a star, barely visible and only now toward three o’clock in winter. By this time there was little money or interest left in the auction. The auctioneer began the lot sheepishly at a thousand dollars. I put up my hand amidst the scattering, disinterested crowd and said ‘Ten’. The auctioneer laughed. He looked around the dispersing crowd and laughed again, but his confidence was gone.
‘It’s a star, you realize?’
‘I know,’ I said, stepping closer to the soapbox. ‘It’s worth much more, but ten is all I have.’
The auctioneer scowled:
‘I’d buy it myself if I had anywhere to put it.’
Reluctantly he re-started the auction. He called ‘Ten dollars’ three drawn out times and disgustedly brought the hammer down.
‘I expect you can arrange finance.’
I handed him the ten-dollar note.
‘Now, where do you want it delivered?’
‘I don’t. Leave it where it is.’
‘But it’s your star. You’ve bought it!’ He held a contract up to my face as proof.
‘I know. Only, leave it where it is. I like it there.’
I signed the contract and the auctioneer walked away shaking his head.
An energetic few had already set about taking down their new possessions. The Cross was gone to the rich man’s garden. The man who bought Dante’s star had it on the pavement, looking at it suspiciously where it burned as hot as a con. He was threatening to default on the deposit.
I always liked the smallest stars, anyway, I told myself: the ones that show the reality of the dark as well as the possibility of light. Perhaps tomorrow I would stay up late again and see my star rise alone in the east.”    –Patrick Holland, ABC Pool, 2009

Paul Auster, “Invisible” (2009)


Begins with a reference to Bertran de Born. One of the protagonists has the last name Born, and Bertran comes up a few times: both as Dante depicted him and as the poet himself. The narrator also translates one of Bertran’s poems from Occitan into English (Auster includes the whole poem).

Contributed by Elizabeth Ann Coggeshall

Dale E. Basye, “Heck: Where the Bad Kids Go” Series

dale-e-basye-heck-where-the-bad-kids-go-seriesHeck: Where Bad Kids Go is a series of books that seems to have drawn heavy inspiration from Dante’s Inferno. After the first installment in the series, each subsequent book is focused on a specific “circle of Heck.” The characters’ names seem to draw inspiration from different sources of “infernal” literature – more specifically, Dante, Milton, and Goethe: Virgil, Milton, and Fauster, for example. At one point in the series, the protagonists have to cross “the great tunnel of dung-the River Styx, the final, fecal resting place of all the world’s sewage.”

Contributed by Gianluca P., 4th grade

Rachel Blau DuPlessis, “Draft 98: Canzone” (2009)

rachel-blau-duplessis-draft-98-canzone-2009“After the experiences spoken of already, after I found that the luminous bit of phosphorescence in the dark room was a bug, pulsing blue, I wanted to show how these data are vectored. Yet even the lyric may trip and fall unwitting into brambles. Do I need again to prove myself vertiginous? I now open the book backward, as if shifting poles, and pass into a mirroring account of alphabets. Every off chance is the index of what has already been articulated, opening onto the same scrubby field. The master poet trembled. People watched him and wondered. He could barely articulate one shuddering, shattered word, but struggled, shaking, and thereby achieved exactitude and bearing. As for me, years later, I stumbled through a cracked gate, scarcely knowing why and how I was brought to this place. Its ownership in fact was common property, though at first it had seemed fenced off–Vietato l’ingresso. People watched me and shrugged. However, having finally come here, to an open book, I thought it plausible to write of the intersections, so that others might recognize their fate in mine as well as mine in theirs. Hence I composed a canzone that begins ‘I carried my soul the other night.'”    –Rachel Blau DuPlessis, Jacket Magazine, Fall 2009

Read the full poem here.

Pinsky Reviews José Saramago’s “Cain” (2009)

pinsky-reviews-jose-saramagos-cain-2009“…Masters of narrative have the power to expose the act of fabrication without invalidating the work: sublime puppeteers like Austen or Nabokov smiling at the audience above their creations, addressing the reader or discussing what they know or need to suppose about the puppets and their stage. Sometimes it’s done with backspin, as when Dante says he hesitated to say he saw a body walking along holding its severed head — but what can he do, he really saw it?” [. . .]    –Robert Pinsky, The New York Times, October 21, 2011

“Damages” (Season 2)

damages-season-2“There is a reference to Dante in the TV show Damages with Glenn Close. In Season 2, episode 12 (‘Look What He Dug Up This Time’), scientist David Purcell repents for having falsified a report on contaminated water on behalf of finance tycoon Kendrik, who in exchange is protecting Purcell from a murder charge. Purcell decides to confess everything to the police after telling Kendrik about the nine circles of hell, and commenting upon the damned souls’ ability to see the future and the past, but not the present. Of course, Kendrik does not get the reference and tells Purcell that he is out of his mind.”    –Matteo Soranzo, McGill University

“The Temperature of Hell, a Colloquium”

the-temperature-of-hell-a-colloquium“According to the best scientific data currently available, both the average and the mean temperatures of Hell have risen 3.8 degrees since 1955. Although an increase of this size may seem insignificant, especially to those not spending eternity there, the reality of the situation is quite different when experienced in concrete terms. For example, occupants of Hell who in 1955 were standing night and day in boiling pitch up to their knees report that, owing to the expansion of pitch at higher temperatures, they now must endure the torment all the way up to mid-thigh, or even higher, during Hell’s warmer seasons. Condemned souls who have to lie on their backs chained to a flat rock while a white-hot sheet of iron is lowered to within inches of their faces have stated that the rise in Hell’s ambient temperature now makes the iron seem much closer to their faces than it actually is.
Former Vice-President Al Gore, who was among the first to raise concerns about this problem, convened an interdisciplinary gathering in December of 2008 to discuss some of Hell’s climate issues and how we might begin to address them.” [. . .]    –Ian Frazier, The New Yorker, July 20, 2009

Contributed by Elizabeth Ann Coggeshall (Stanford University)

Musea/Colossus Project: “Dante’s Divine Comedy” Parts I, II, III (2009-2010)

“Musea’s collaboration with Finnish Colossus Society has been fruitful in these last years, and the newest release is the most ambitious so far: a 4 cd set, with a comprehensive booklet, featuring 34 bands to address the 34 cantos of the “Inferno” part of the legendary 14th century epic poem ‘The Divine Comedy’ by Dante Alighieri (Purgatory and Paradise will be the concept of future releases, in order to complete the trilogy).
With such an amount of bands coming from different grounds within the progressive aesthetics, it is only natural that the conducting line is only maintained by the story and by the usage of vintage instruments (moog, mellotron, etc) which are common to all the guest bands. In part, and besides the fact that this approach secures a wide array of styles and different musical perspectives, it is also true that it makes the album not being as cohesive and focused as the Epic Poem that muses it would deserve. But hey! There are 4hours+ of pure “regressive” symphonic rock to fully enjoy!”    –Nuno, Proggnosis

Click album covers below to see track titles and credits:

musea-colossus-project-the-divine-comedy-inferno.jpg musea-colossus-project-the-divine-comedy-purgatorio.jpg musea-colossus-project-the-divine-comedy-paradiso.jpg