Deep Inside An Italian Cave, You Can Hear Music Of The Spheres
And it’s going to change everything for you.
In Calcata Vecchia, an artists’ colony about sixty miles north of Rome, there is a cave nestled inside a hill that was excavated by the ancient Etruscans. Housed within the cave is the Grotta Sonora, or sound cave, truly one of the most remarkable places in Italy. Despite living in Calcata Vecchia for two years, we stumbled upon it quite by accident, and the experience of hearing new, harmonically exquisite, otherworldly sounds — music made with gongs, harp bowls, and handmade experimental instruments — has never left me.
Musician/artisans Madhava Carrara and Margherita Cioffi greeted us warmly. A feeling of wellness and tranquility came over me as I wandered through the cave, admiring some truly beautiful instruments that could have easily passed for works of art.
But then Madhava or Margherita would pick up a soft mallet or a rubber ball and elicit sounds I had never heard before, more than temple music or sacred Indian intonations, more than mere music itself.
In such a space, you actually feel the sonic vibrations resonating through your body, and to profound effect. You fall instantly under their thrall. Time stands still. You are completely and utterly present. There is no striving, no worry. You simply give yourself over, and without wishing to sound like some tie-dye-wearing bong-philospher, I’d say you simply vibrate in unison with another like vibration.
Using a wide variety of shapes and materials, including recycled waste materials, Madhava and Margherita create sound experiences that stubbornly hold out against my paltry attempts to describe them. At one point, they seated me directly behind a large gong, percussed it, and I could actually feel my sternum vibrating in harmony with the sound waves.
There’s an involvement with these instruments that goes far beyond passive enjoyment. You immerse yourself in sounds for which you have no previous “audio template,” which means you receive them as a blank slate. The experience is so perspective-bending, you don’t want it to stop. You become Nipper, the RCA Victor dog, tilting its head at the sound of “His Master’s Voice.”
It is an extraordinary journey you take inside Grotta Sonora, blissfully awash in sound, nestled inside the warm womb of an Etruscan cave that overlooks a valley. There are no synths, no Autotune, no instruments you even have names for. This is uncharted territory. It is worth the effort it might take, say, an American visitor to get out there, and is far more rewarding than tramping around the Colosseum or eating lunch at some tourist-menu restaurant.
Grotta Sonora has no American equivalent. It embodies the very reason people like to travel. And I am firmly of the opinion that sounds like these have the power to heal whatever ails you.
The world is a vast and wondrous place. Have you ever had an acoustic experience that left you different than you were before? Even if it was listening to Led Zeppelin for the first time, I want to hear thoughts.