Fabio Di Salvo and Bernardo Vercelli have a way with coaxing interesting harmonies out of unexpected sources. Known together as Quiet Ensemble, they’ve elicited audible frequencies from pears and pineapples. (Spolier alert: The fruits sound a lot like techno), and their latest endeavor allowed mice to remix works by famous composers.)
Orchestra da Camera was on display at last month’s Art You Lost? event, sponsored by the Teatro di Roma, where a creative collective of artists transformed the interior of the Teatro India into an extra-sensory exploration of reminiscence and perspective. The whole experience, which was centered around the concept of personal loss, sounds pretty remarkable: People were invited to share meaningful objects, data, and stories to create a "cartography of memory" that extended throughout the venue. And Quiet Ensemble’s unique approach fit right in. "We explore possible relations between nature and technology," Vercelli tells Co.Design. "We focus on a possible balance between chaos and control by giving great importance to little things."
The duo needed to work around a gigantic map painted on the floor in the room where their site-specific project would live, so they opted to build a 12-foot-long, one-foot-wide wooden conducting platform for their vermin maestros. On top, each mouse wheel was attached to its own small music box, which played at the speed of the rodents’ gait. The resulting tones were amplified by microphones and cables hidden in the pedestals (lest the mice be tempted to nibble).
In terms of tunes, the goal was to establish a "dreamlike atmosphere," aided by the likes of Brahms, Schubert, and Mozart. "We choose three well-known lullabies, but we knew they would sound unrecognizable," they say, based on the syncopated spinning. The little critters came from a local animal shop, and almost all were given back after the two-day show. A pair of mice—one male, one female—escaped into the studio and the Quiet Orchestra team has yet to find them. So perhaps there’s more beautiful music to be made.