I wrote these songs in October 2017 during my residency for The Waterlines Project, an artistic and literary residency in Venice. During my residency, I lived and wrote on San Servolo Island. The island was a mental hospital from 1725 to 1978. Every day I passed my time working in the archive in the morning, and writing in my room at night.
In October 1944 all of the Jews already segregated in the mental hospital were “collected” (you can read this horrible word in the clinical records) and deported towards German concentration camps. I looked at their faces. I read again and again their stories in the clinical records, trying to bring them back, to give them back again their voice. Their story is unknown: my mission is to make it well-known. We all need each other, we need also to meet again all those men and women, “collected”. Today, the clinical records are free from privacy, according to the law (more than 70 years passed from that time) and I could use names, photographs, personal data. But I decided not to do it. Out of respect the victims’ relatives, and to give their stories also a universal value, not only a personal one, I chose names for them like Eurydice, Deborah, Hannah, and also Alice, Saint Sebastian, Torquemada, crossing different cultural codes but always starting from their very peculiar biographies. I replaced photographs with engravings by Alice Falchetti inspired by the German Expressionism. You will find the main details in the notes of each song (even the clinical record number, for those who want to study it deeper, and to meet them from an historical point of view, beyond my artistic transfiguration).
In October 2017 I thought I had finished my work, but actually I hadn’t: I wrote the last song, Maltamé, which is now the core of the album, in March-April 2018. I wrote it in a special language, nowadays almost disappeared: it was spoken in the past by the Venetian Jews and at present by very few of them. This peculiar language is a fascinating mix of Hebrew and Venetian dialects. This song is an homage to this language, to the people who used to speak it. It was killed by the ignorant violence of the executioners, during the last deportations to the German concentration camps. This is my way to remember, to “make memory” even “through” and “by” the words themselves, physically, as they were bricks, which become bricks of memory, to build up songs-houses of remembrance.
Michele Gazich, July 7th 2018