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When the multidisciplinary arts festival Europalia invited Melanie De Biasio to participate in its 2021 festival on the theme of Trains & Tracks, the Belgian musician was inspired to return to her roots, to retrace the route of immigration from Italy to Belgium taken by her father’s parents. 

 

With lightweight recording equipment and an old camera, she settled alone in the small mountain village of Lettomanoppello, in Abruzzo, Italy. This became the starting point Il Viaggio. Her stay lasted a month, during which she collected testimonies, in particular from Ciccopeppe. He was a man exiled to Belgium, before returning to his native Italy. His story forms the preamble to Lay Your Ear To The Rail. Melanie writes, “In his voice, I perceived an echo of the whole of humanity.”  

 

She walked throughout the area, recording what she calls “textures” – the wind, the water of springs and streams, birdsong, barking, church bells. In these moments, the acoustician takes the place of the musician to capture natural sounds, untamed vibrations, freeing herself from language, stories, and myths, to fully welcome the uninterpreted world.  

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As a spectral music of exile and wandering, Lay Your Ear To The Rail patiently leads the listener towards a return to wonder.

 

Much like a child’s process of discovery, this journey was not only introspective but also collaborative at its heart: 

 

All English lyrics are the result of a continuing collaboration with Gil Helmick, poet and activist living in Maine, in the United States. With Gil’s poetry as a starting point, the two create an improvisation with words, and a synergy of images and meaning is born. The evocative lyrics of We Never Kneel to Pray and its variation The Chaos Azure speak to a luminous rebellion, acceptance, and ultimately, love. 

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In Chiesa, Melanie’s flute takes advantage of the natural echo of a church, creating a spatial wholeness, while the beat evokes footsteps. 

 

Il Vento, Now Is Narrow and San Liberatore satisfy the requirement the musician had imposed on herself, that this journey be made with the eyes of a child.  

 

“A child does not think, she dreams. A child’s imagination, detached from adult preoccupations, has no prescribed expectations.”  

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From Lettomanoppello, Melanie journeyed in the Dolomites where her family originated and where she spent summers as a child. There she found her grandmother’s house and recorded Nonnarina, a tender song of remembrance composed in her honor and sung in her native language of Italian. Like molting, the moment when one leaves one’s old skin to let the new one emerge, Melanie returns to an essential quality. Accompanied by a simple guitar, she expresses this desire in Mi Ricordo Di Te, also sung in Italian.  

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