Dahaka – Early Modern Infrared


CD – Coda

The project Early Modern Infrared by the Italian duo Dahaka is a stereo combination of modified recordings of a scanning infrared camera and fragmented early modern music taken from the period in which the subject paintings were made. This is a classic example of some contemporary artistic ways of working, which tries to search for a strong relationship between the digital and history. According to this process, the idea overlooks the aesthetic result. This does not mean that the original idea has no importance in the creative process, but that first there is the thought of a precise musical structure and only later the work-making process can begin. Infrared Radiography is a technique for studying the underlying layers of a painting with the help of a detector that is sensitive to Infrared radiation. So too, the formal structure of the paintings under examination provides some general indications about the music, which will be later chosen among the music typical of the same age the painting belongs to. We have the metaphor of a deep scan, here the artist is still the one in charge for the definitive version (in this case the chamber parts are kept to a minimum and the full set of pulses, hisses, scratches and glitches is more redundant). The result is fascinating; the hypnosis due to the repeated and synthetic recordings are contrasted by some measured classical parts. The continuum of one hour and ten minutes gradually engages the listener. The dark materials such as charcoal absorb the infrared light while light material reflects it, and different wave lengths penetrate to different layers of the painting, revealing various parts of the underlying layers. All the recordings are made by using some scanned images and the cover artwork is a multispectral infrared scan of a detail of Ciamabue’s Madonna with Child (1283) in Castelfiorentino, while the back cover and the picture on the other side of the inlay are details of The Entombment (1507) by Raffaello in Galleria Borghese, Rome. The Dahaka meticulously assembled all the data they collected. The work is fully engaging and the beauty of the final result is so high as to allow us to forget the complexity of the whole process.