Cities: ideas and insights on the cities we live in

photo source: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concerts

Double bassist Renaud Garcia-Fons composed a song called ‘Hacia Compostela’. The song is about the city of Santiago de Compostela, a city in the Galicia region of Northwestern Spain that is home to a famous religious pilgrimage site. In English, Hacia Compostela means: on the way to Compostela.

The bass line rhythm is at the pace of a casual but persistent walk and the melody creates the scenery you take in when you are enroute to somewhere. We’re all on a ride, enjoying the pleasant landscape, in anticipation of our final destination. As the song continues, the intensity picks up and we know that we must be arriving at Compostela with all the charms that we had envisioned on the way.

Every place is characterized by so many sounds that as locals we take for granted and as a visitor we are astute in noticing every note. In my neighborhood its the clapping of wood sticks every night to remind everyone to put out flames and turn off heating elements to prevent fires. A tradition that is not practically needed, but is still carried out by a local resident every night without fail. In the winter we have the melody of the truck selling fuel for space heaters. The greeting of a vending machine as you pass by, trying desperately to catch your attention. The persistent chime at the subway entrance to alert blind people to subway access points. The buzz of cicadas during the day in the summer. The clacking of a rusted out bicycle with flat tires whizzing down the street. I could go on.

I have read about Compostela and the pilgrimage to get there, but have never been myself. After listening to ‘Hacia Compostela’ I feel like I have a sense of what it is like to arrive in this small town and take in its atmosphere. The music of Garcia-Fons illustrates the power of sound to create an experience of a place.

I’ve posted a link below to his recent performance on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts program. Hacia Compostela is the second song of his three song set, but the whole set is worth listening too.

Renaud Garcia-Fons