First installed inside the tract of Trajan's aqueduct that passes below the cryptoporticus or basement of the American Academy in Rome in May 2011, this sound poem draws excerpts of visual/textual scores by Jennifer Scappettone performed live by the Difforme Ensemble (Marco Ariano (percussion and electronics), Renato Ciunfrini (sampler, contrabass clarinet, voice) and Roberto Fega (electronics), and vocals by Jennifer Scappettone, Ersela Kripa, and Karen Yasinsky) together with field recordings in Roman aqueducts (the Acqua Traiana, Acqua Marcia, and Acqua Claudia), discussions with community members about the vagaries of monumental Roman waterworks, readings from outmoded chronicles of Roman history, and decodings of the inscriptions to the underworld hovering in the courtyard above the Academy basement so as to plunge sonically into the infrastructure of empire and collapse.
"X Locus: Cryptoporticus (Abluvion)" animates the hollows beneath our feet. Choral utterances emerge from a blighted underground—montages of voices salvaged from the community and from pastoral poetry, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Lewis Carroll’s Alice—to sound the metamorphosing role of now-defunct aqueducts in feeding the city, spurring deviant behaviors and sieges of empire.
In the May 2011 installation, environmental media projections by Stephen Mueller and Ersela Kripa (AGENCY Architecture) and a conversant sculpted soundtrack of fountains and birdsong by Paul Rudy reliquefied the corridor that hosts a tract of the 1,902-year-old aqueduct while from a hole in the floor—opening onto the lit-up channel itself—Scappettone’s poem drew listeners into cycles of use, abuse, and disuse of infrastructure for the public good, portents for our postpastoral and near-apocalyptic moment.
Jennifer Scappettone would like to thank the artists, scholars, and staff of the American Academy in Rome for their voices in the work. Special thanks to Mona Talbott and the Rome Sustainable Food Project, Gianni Ponti and Roma Sotterranea, Ted and Michael O’Neill, Andrew Riggsby, and Lila Yawn.