Composer Olivia Belli on the Location That Inspired “Valadier”

Olivia Belli

Next year will see the release of Intermundia, the new album from pianist and composer Olivia Belli, on XXIM Records. For the song “Valadier,” Belli drew inspiration from the Temple of Valdier,  a building that’s stood for almost 200 years in the Italian town of Marche. In her own words, here’s Belli on the physical spaces that have helped to shape her immersive, haunting music…

Olivia Belli on Valadier:

Valadier is my refuge where I train myself to see what is real but invisible, to see beyond things the spirit that shapes them.

A place of silence and introspection where I can reconnect with the most precious part of us all, our spiritual nature.

The beauty of this temple, its harmony with the nature that frames it, is a “real thing”, is material, but I/we can see the ideal that has embodied and taken physical form. 

We are physical forms of an ideal, we are embodied in a spirit.


Olivia Belli on the history of the location:

The hermitage or temple of Valdier ([the] name of its architect) is a place of worship whose particularity is that of being a jewel inside a cave, in fact it was called “Infra Saxa” that means among the stones. It is a temple wanted by Pope Leo XII as a place of cult and silence, alongside a hermitage where pilgrims stayed.

It has a singular beauty and a particular atmosphere that emanates from its perfection in contrast with the bare rock. It was once the site of those who sought absolution and therefore made pilgrimage here. In fact, it has always been considered the “refugium peccatorum” as stated on the plaque engraved at the entrance.


Olivia Belli on the compositional elements of “Valadier”:

The piece develops in an arc form: it begins and ends in the same way, it comes from the shadows and returns to the shadows. As it progresses, through a harmonic loop, it gets brighter and brighter, until, towards the middle, the themes are exposed in full light. 

The piano presents two continuous and sinuous themes, varied in different ways; the violin sings its own theme, composed of a few notes, spaced out by silences; viola and cello support the harmony. It is composed in the III Mode of the modal scale, the Deuterus, to which Guido D’Arezzo attributed the character of “Mysticus”. According to the Greek theorists, the melodies composed on each of these harmonies were marked by a particular character (ethos), with effects typical of the harmony itself on the will and the psyche.

The “mystic mode” represents an inner life experience that leads the subject towards an intimate union with a superior, different, absolute reality, outside the ordinary forms of knowledge and experience. 


Olivia Belli on the connection between real places and her upcoming album Intermundia:

The 8 main tracks are inspired by 8 places in my territory that are very special to me. Places of meditation, silence, secluded places where I love to find myself, or together with my family, to find a balance, a meaning, a refuge from the futility and fleetingness of the world and of life.

Spiritual places, but not only of religious connotation, which include monasteries, hermitages, gardens of ancient palaces, but also mountain shelters and gorges, islands … Places that I often frequent, at all times of the year, places of which I truly feel the need and that have always inspired me, in life and in music, where I feel safe, even if I’m on top of a mountain or in the middle of the sea.

The album therefore speaks of an aspiration towards a more essential, more spiritual life; tells of a personal journey, in which the physical and real places that directly inspired me become general symbols / metaphors of this aspiration and this journey: ascetic path that ends on the top of Monte Sibilla. 


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