AAR Pulses with Energy and Beats at ‘Soundscapes’ Outdoor Concert

Photo of people dancing
Dancers (photograph by Riccardo Lopez)
Color photo of two male DJs
Polysick (left) and Palm Wine (Simone Bertuzzi) shared the stone stage (photograph by Riccardo Lopez)
Photo of a female DJ
Ehua (photograph by Riccardo Lopez)
Color photo of people dancing
Dancers (photograph by Riccardo Lopez)
Black and white photo of a male DJ
Mason Bates on the table (photograph by Riccardo Lopez)
Color photo of a female DJ
Mary Gehnyei (photograph by Riccardo Lopez)
Color photo of people standing and having conversations in a villa entrance bathed in red light
Conversations between many (photograph by Riccardo Lopez)
Color photo of a DJ and a dancing crowd
Mason Bates and the ecstatic crowd (photograph by Riccardo Lopez)

The front of the Academy usually presents a staid, even mysterious, view to passersby. Not so last Friday, when seven hundred visitors flocked to the front court and pavilions of the McKim, Mead & White Building for Soundscapes, an evening of contemporary electronic music that showcased the Academy in all its dimensions.

Organized by the American Academy in Rome and the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Secilia with the support of the City of Rome and the Palazzo Esposizioni Roma, Soundscapes included performances by Italian and American DJs, musicians, and producers, who delivered pulsing beats, otherworldly synths, and aural exuberance from six in the evening to midnight. When the sun set, dramatic red lighting further added to the impression of a musical festival.

Soundscapes explored the interactions between sound propelled by the walls, musical structures, and movement. The five-bay façade of stucco and travertine transformed into a space of rhythm and togetherness. The evening lineup comprised established artists like Grammy–award winner Mason Bates (2004 Fellow) along with emerging voices of the contemporary music scene, including Palm Wine (2019 Italian Fellow). For many of the artists, Rome served as an important part of their musical awakening.

Over the course of the evening, the talented artists unleashed a crescendo of sonic explorations within a wide spectrum of electronica genres. From familiar beats to new sounds of the diasporas and disruptive rhythms, the resonance among the front pavilions highlighted the ephemeral materiality and profound encounters between the community at the American Academy and the city of Rome.

“Soundscapes was an evening of experimentation and excitement. The Academy presented new voices, new sounds, a new look,” said Director Aliza Wong. “It proved just how dynamic and innovative our Fellows and collaborators are as classical mixed with electronic and McKim, Mead & White basked in disco lighting.”

Warming up the crowd was Polysick, a Rome-based artist who has been making electronic music since 2010 with a variegated style that includes ambient music, languid downtempo, and dance pop. He was followed by Palm Wine, a project by Simone Bertuzzi (2019 Italian Fellow), who spins “warm and border-crossing tunes” with sets that “travel between past, present, and the future,” per the artist.

The next set was that of Ehua, an Italian-Ivorian visual artist and DJ based in London, whose recent EP Aquamarine (Nervous Horizon) was inspired by the color and motion of water. Working across many tempos, Ehua, who grew up in Rome, has a particular interest in exploring the impact of percussion in sonic realms and amplifying the music of Africa and the African diaspora.

Bates stepped up to the booth after. The American had, only one evening earlier, held an Italian premiere of his Piano Concerto to a packed auditorium at the Parco della Musica, but if he was tired or jet-lagged, he betrayed no sign of it. He showed off his mastery of mixing electronic and symphonic sounds, bridging classical music and technology. (His remix of the catchy theme from HBO’s White Lotus was a particular crowd-pleaser.) Closing out the unmatched energy of evening was Mary Gehnyei, a DJ influenced by hip hop and Detroit techno.

Romans and Americans danced, and danced some more, occasionally visiting food trucks parked on Via Angelo Masina for something more substantial than taralli and prosecco. But more than just a party, it was a night of sonic encounters between people and places, sounds and space, Italy and United States.

“It was a great week to celebrate music, experimentation and the Italo-American encounters,” said Andrew Heiskell Arts Director Ilaria Puri Purini

Mason Bates agreed. “I loved watching the diverse members of the audience, from kids to artists to donors to hipsters, mix it up on the dancefloor. The Academy has such stellar spaces that deserve to be animated for the community, and the staff did a phenomenal job with this event.”

Soundscapes was organized in collaboration with the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia and with the support of the Azienda Speciale Palaexpo.

Con il patrocinio del Comune di Roma.

AAR is grateful to our media partners for the event: Zero and Radio Raheem Milano.

Press inquiries

Andrew Mitchell

Director of Communications

212-751-7200, ext. 342

a.mitchell [at] aarome.org (a[dot]mitchell[at]aarome[dot]org)

Maddalena Bonicelli

Rome Press Officer

+39 335 6857707

m.bonicelli.ext [at] aarome.org (m[dot]bonicelli[dot]ext[at]aarome[dot]org)