The Apple Store had finally opened. Located in a nineteenth century building on Via Roma, across from H&M and Bennetton, the American chain had set up shop in appropriately branded surroundings. Seeing that the store was packed with Sunday shoppers sporting bags emblazoned with the logos of its neighboring retailers, I decided I’d take a rain cheque. The frenzy was overwhelming.
I’d been drawn to the store to check out their prices on hard drives. Stuck with a summer’s worth of field recordings and photos on SD cards, I was eager to transfer everything to a proper storage device. I’d go for a bike ride, and peruse one of Turin’s Sunday markets instead.
Unlocking my bike, I could hear someone sobbing behind me. Her voice was faint, but grew louder the closer she got. I stopped what I was doing and pulled out my digital recorder. It was a panhandler, in her late twenties, from the looks of it. She’d stopped in front of the Apple Store, and was hitting up customers as they streamed out. I stood there and let the metaphorical tape roll.
It was like listening to a well-prepared tape loop. She was asking for money in order to buy food. As rehearsed as it sounded though, there was a seriousness to it that cannot be denied. If I had any money at the time, I’m certain I’d have given it to her. The begging, which intensifies as the recording progresses, is jarring. I found it hard to dissociate its drama from the spate of economic suicides that have afflicted Italy the last year.
Indeed, one cannot hear such cries for help, and not find good reason for their extremity. Even if you are not familiar with Italy’s unemployment statistics, or the austerity measures being enacted by its caretaker government, it’s impossible to avoid the distress. Hence the inclusion of the lead photograph, of a woman searching through the garbage. That, one sees, regularly here. This recording, I reckon, is the soundtrack.
- Joel Schalit