Viterbo Underground


The musical tracks contained in this cd come from a scientific-musical project, that was born in Italy: EMusic (ElectroMagnetic Music). It is based on the transformation of geophysical data, that are usually recorded to investigate the subsurface, into sounds, so that to compose a soundtrack reflecting the effective geological structure of the site. The Viterbo Sotterranea course develops, thanks to the good workability of the rocks, within the Tephritic-phonolitic Ignimbrite (“Tufo rosso a scorie nere”). This volcanic rock overlays the Pliocenic Clays, resting at a depth of about 28 m. The first composition (FALL) is based on the pitches associated with the outward journey, from the surface down to about 100 m depth. Keep in mind that, in order to make audible the sounds, we had to dilate the recording times by 2 millions, so that 1 second of the track corresponds actually to a sampling time of the geophysical equipment of half microsecond. The attached Figure shows how the subsurface response changes with time, with the associated pitches produced by the sonification. In the geological model shown on the right, that we recovered by means of complex geophysical computations, we have reported the same pitches, that place themselves in an irregular way, according to the features of the investigated rocks. The travel of the induced currents within the tufaceous formation is very fast, due to the high resistivity, and exhaust itself by the first 28 seconds of listening. From this point the signal travels slower into the conductive Clays, until the end of the first track. After all we have done a journey into the subsurface, by riding the currents induced by the electromagnetic field!

The second piece (ASCENT) was arranged by reversing the musical track, so that to follow the opposite path, hence from the Clays to the surface. It’s during this travel that the Marco Guidolotti’s sax offers us an artistic interpretation of EMusic, by providing an example of how the musicians can converse with the Sounds of the Earth, according to a kind of jam session, but where the starting score is dictated by the Earth itself.

The third composition (VARIATION no. 1) is a free variation, performed by Stefano Pontani, however starting from the pitches produced by Viterbo Sotterranea.


Viterbo Underground is composed by a network of tunnels which spreads below the old town centre of Viterbo and that takes beyond the town wall. For now, the only practicable way winds for about 180 meters, which is placed on two levels, below Piazza della Morte, at a depth of 3 and 11 meters. The course is completely excavated within the “Tufo rosso a scorie nere”, a volcanic rock that is typical of the present landscape of Tuscia. The tunnels’ origin is controversial. According to some reliable conjectures, that were put forward by scholars and archaeologists, the first cut into the tuff may date back to the Etruscans. In that period this structure was likely utilized as hydraulic system, so that to gather and canalize rainwater and river-water, and then to sort out them where it was necessary, just by a dense tunnels’ network. During the medieval period these places assumed the current form: the tunnels were enlarged and lengthened and they became a true labyrinth made by secrets passages that were used for connecting the strategic and crucial structures of Viterbo. Moreover the tunnels took towards all the main exits of the town and they assured getaway to the town-dwellers, in case of danger or of siege. More recently, the underground structures were exploited by brigands for their shady business and they were used as air-raid shelters, during the Second World War.

For furher information and booking:
Viterbo Sotterranea, Piazza della Morte, 1. Tel. +39 0761.220851 – +39 338.8618856

EMusic is an Association which aims at creating a connection between Music and Geophysics, both for didactic-popular and artistic scope. It is composed by: Antonio Menghini (geologist-geophysicist); Stefano Pontani (musician); Riccardo Marini (manager).

Marco Guidolotti: won the “Massimo Urbani International Prize” and played with the most important international and italian musicans. He got a diploma in clarinet and then took a degree in JAZZ MUSIC with first class honours at the Conservatorio Santa Cecilia of Rome. He collaborates firmly with RAI and MEDIASET for the production of programmes for TV and cinema. He got famous collaborations with Ennio Morricone, Woody Allen, Armando Trovajoli, Dave Liebman, Enrico Pieranunzi, Roberto Gatto, Stefano di Battista, Mario Biondi, Dee dee Bridgwater, Danilo Rea, Paolo Damiani, Alex Britti.