Sound in Stone: Day 3

Wednesday 1 March 2023

The sound of Vito Maiullari’s Lithophone
Vito Maiullari’s Lithophone

We spend the morning ploughing through outstanding administrative tasks, mainly related to grants we are applying for. We both harbour ambivalence towards becoming artists who rely on public funding, feeling uneasy about the state capture that threatens free expression, as well as the never-ending cycle of funding applications. And yet we proceed.

In the afternoon we drive to the home of sculptor Vito Maiullari. Eleanora, whom we met yesterday at her home, kindly joins us to translate. Vito escorts us through his artistic haven, giving a masterclass on creating sound from stone.

One sculpture is comprised of long hanging shards, which resonate in harmony when struck with a mallet. Another is a gigantic rock in which a recess has been carved large enough for a human skull. When you place your head inside you feel for a moment that you have merged with the stone around you.

Vito Maiullari merging with a scuplture

Our conversation reveals that stones consisting of a single layer–a single layer of time–produce the most resonant tones, which resemble pure sine waves, concentrating the energy. In contrast, stones with multiple layers emit more complex, noisier sounds, less pleasing to our ears.

We take note of an intriguing technique Vito employs: using simple squares of styrofoam as a base for a stone, allowing it to “float.” This method enables the stone to produce clear, long tones when struck without dissipating energy into one’s hands or a table.

Vito Maullari’s table and springs sculpture

Then, Vito repeats a gesture that captivated us years earlier: he splits a rock apart, handing each of us one of the five pieces. He explains that the inside of this stone has remained untouched by air for millennia, and by placing it on our lips, we can savor the effervescence of time itself.

When darkness descends, we enter Vito’s studio and examine a solid stone sculpture mounted on four spring legs. Striking the with your hands sends vibrations along the stone and into and between each of these spring legs, back and forth and back and forth. From one strike this assemblage embodies the essence of vitality, seemingly without an end, until its life force dissipates into nothingness.

The sound of Vito Maiullar’s table and spring sculpture

Outside again the night sky reveals two planets – impossibly bright – that look like Venus and Jupiter. Vito and his wife invite us to eat with them: cheese and wine and a long, stringy broccoli served in a broth. It is such a joyful evening, a welcome reprieve from the cold bureaucracy that had swallowed up our morning.