Tenores di Bitti

This Tenores di Bitti cd is something best listened to alone, or you will wind up alone. I have albums by two different Sardinian vocal groups who kick out this ancient polyphonic overtone singing that probably dates back to the original bronze age civilization of Sardinia, maybe three millennia back. When the Phoenicians and Greeks and Romans landed they were probably met with this, and I wonder if it sounded as alien to their ears as it does to ours now. Amazing how it lasted all these centuries. Civilizations came and went in the Mediterranean, history sweeping one way or the other, but Sardinia has long been strangely isolated, cut off, resistant to change. I remember reading in Fernand Braudel’s History of the Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World In the Age of Philip II an anecdote about how 17th century businessmen from southern Spain visited the island and realized what an ideal place for oranges Sardinia was. The soil was perfect, the sun constant, frosts rare. They planted immense groves and the scent of the orange blossoms wafted across the land. That was too much for the clans, who stopped murdering one another long enough to aim their blunderbusses at the hapless Spaniards left to tend the groves. They killed them all, and then in an impressive bit of atavistic nihilism cut down every tree, leaving the alien fruit to rot on the ground. Afterward the killers returned to their fortified villages and drank rough wine and doubtless sang songs just like these, the crazy overtones vibrant with life unchanged for three thousand years. Sometimes stasis is worth killing over, and a sweet orange is the devil himself.

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