Sound Stones of Incredible Sardinian Artist Pinuccio Sciola

One of the places I suggest visiting in Sardinia is the open-air lab garden museum of the late sculptor Pinuccio Sciola. I was lucky enough to meet him and interview him.

“What is the first word that comes to your mind when you think of a stone?” Asked Pinuccio Sciola as he welcomed me to his house lab.

“Hard? Rigid?” I tried to guess.

“What about elastic?” He suggested artfully, making one of his freshly cut stones tremble like a chord of a violin.

This is how my interview with the acclaimed sculptor who makes sounds out of stones started. I immediately understood it wasn’t going to be the usual Q&A session: “I can’t answer your questions,” he revealed from the beginning, “otherwise I’ll kill all the magic that Nature has created around the stones.”

Image: Garden museum of Pinuccio Sciola's sound stones in Sardinia.

Interview with Pinuccio Sciola in his garden museum in San Sperate

Pinuccio Sciola, as he’s known among his fellow countrymen of the colorful town of San Sperate, in southern Sardinia near Cagliari, is an all-around artist, but his soul lies in the mysterious world of stones. “Stones are the backbone of our planet,” he said. “They were here since time began, over the span of millennia, and they will never cease to exist.” I had never paid too much attention to stones, perhaps like most people, I had always taken their existence for granted.

As Confucius already in the 6th century BC praised the importance of harmony between people and nature, today he would have been very pleased to see that Sciola has towards stones the same conception of Chinese ancient culture: they are a gift from Nature to us, and we must cherish them.

While we were making our way through the winding country lanes from the picturesque village glowing with colorful murals towards the countryside where lies his open-air museum, my efforts to find out when was the very first moment he had heard a stone’s sound proved futile.

Image: Pinuccio Sciola in his lab museum in San Sperate in Sardinia.

“It has always been inside me, there is no first time,” he claimed, unconcerned about my reporting needs.

It was a misty morning, the night before it had rained, the air was still heavy with dew and the shifting sky sullen with clouds threatened more showers. “Listen,” he shushed me raising his finger to his lips. “Can you hear them whisper?”

A rich stone tradition in Sardinia

As soon as we reached the swarm of sculptures, he grabbed a little rock and started rubbing it gently against a stone that stood tall among its peers in the middle of the countryside. The very moment the music started and the magic was unleashed, I was mesmerized and suddenly felt incapable of interviewing him: there was no right question and, despite my previous research, I realized I hadn’t managed to grasp his art, so the best choice was to let him talk wildly. No need to tell him, he knew it would have happened.

Sardinia has a long-standing mineral-related tradition. The whole territory is dotted with nuraghi, Bronze Age towers made with stones, and domus de janas, literally “fairies’ houses”, also dating back to prehistoric times, like no other region in Italy.

Image: Domus de janas in Sardinia

Part of Sardinian stone heritage is the so-called “giants’ tombs”. They are next to impossible to place somewhere in history and are surrounded by a mysterious atmosphere arguably due to the presence of magnetic fields around them, to the extent that some people consider therapeutic for the soul lying underneath.

This time, I couldn’t restrain myself from asking him: “Do you think the magnetic fields around the giants’ tombs actually have such effects on men? Because geologists…”

“Ah, geologists!” He interrupted me abruptly. “If you knew how many times I’ve argued with geologists!”

I had no doubt.

With Pinuccio Sciola’s singing stones, I discovered a whole new universe.

Image: Sound stone of Pino Sciola in his lab in Sardinia.

Discovering the sound of the Universe

I had always considered stones as unbending objects devoid of life, but Sciola started unfolding a whole new world in front of my eyes. “I want to establish a new relationship with nature,” he declared while we ambled about his open-air museum. “Did you know that stones bleed?”

Nothing could surprise me anymore, so I confessed immediately: “No, but please, show me.”

We were standing in front of a big grey stone, its tip covered with black. “Now this is black,” he announced, “but when I put it close to the fire, it started bleeding a fire-red liquid. A highly emotional moment.”

After a whole morning spent walking through history, sound, and mystery, hours spent listening to stones, and a whole new reality unraveling in my mind, Pinuccio Sciola felt like testing me. He showed me a piece of white stone: “This is Carrara’s marble,” he announced, starting to rub it gently with his hand. “Come closer, what can you hear?”

A moment of confusion seized me, I couldn’t hear anything but plain silence. How was it possible? I had carefully listened to every single word he had said so far and I hadn’t learned anything. I shrugged: “Nothing, I can’t hear anything but silence.”

“Exactly,” he retorted breezily, unaware that he was making me breathe again. “This is one of the rare completely dumb stones!”

Image: Sounding stone by Pinuccio Sciola Sardinian sculptor.

Pino Sciola’s background

Sardinia is the land of mystery. There are hidden traditions that even many natives ignore, events beyond comprehension that even scientists gave up on occur. Pinuccio Sciola fully operates in this unconventional mix of nature and man-made reality redolent of a remote past in which men were closer than they are now to Mother Nature.

“I owe much of my inspiration to Central and Latin American countries,” he revealed during our chat. “Mexico and Peru have been crucial for my art and work.”

“Ancient civilizations such as the Maya, like the prehistoric Nuragic population in Sardinia,” he went on, “relied on nature more than we do today, and probably this is why they had a greater respect for the planet.”

Image: Sounding stones of Pino Sciola in Sardinia's San Sperate town.

While we were leaving Sciola’s otherworldly stone museum, a flood of questions crossed my mind. But I barely managed to gather the little pieces of information he gave me all throughout the day in order to grasp his art, fully embedded in his seductive way of living.

Before meeting Sciola, I didn’t know what to expect. I had heard a lot about him, and I knew he was a famous artist, yet I was totally taken aback by the connection he established between nature and his work. He’s not just grateful to nature for its continuous gifts to humanity, but he’s also aware of what his place is on planet Earth, and it seems like he’s somehow closer to the mysteries around the universe.

Sciola’s stones, one of Sardinia’s best-kept secrets

Pinuccio Sciola is, undoubtedly, one of Sardinia’s best secrets, and by all means one of our regional pride.

He’s known all over the world, and if you have the chance to talk to him you’ll understand why. His art involves a fascinating holistic approach that embraces all aspects of a single phenomenon. With him, stones become alive, show their philosophical importance, allow us to linger and enjoy yet another sound of nature, and tell us a thing or two about the universe.

Different languages, disciplines, and yet-to-discover natural laws, all meet in the realm Sciola has created in his open-air museum. Which is “overwhelming in the evening, when the sun sets beyond the skyline”, according to its king.

Defining Sciola merely as a sculptor would be limiting to both his art and his stones.

If only for a minute we think over the meaning of discovering and listening to the sound hidden, somehow withheld, inside these stones, we would see Pinuccio Sciola’s sounding stones as the means for uncovering a bottomless treasure trove.

We would discover a voice that potentially could reveal new aspects of our most remote past to us, up to how the planet was created and what happened prior to humanity

If limestone is fossilized water, what can a piece of this material tell us about its own creation? It’s almost as if the earth wants to talk to us and finally, it’s managing to through Sciola’s hands.

Image: Pinuccio Sciola garden museum in Sardinia.

Video: Pinuccio Sciola’s sounding stones, the memory of the Universe

The second time I went to San Sperate, I asked Pinuccio Sciola to take me to another dimension, the dimension where we can connect to Planet Earth through its sounds, the dimension where you have the impression that stones are alive.

“While using the oxyhydrogen flame to heat and cut the stone, I saw a red fluid coming out of it, it was its blood. Basalt is a volcanic stone, and it was going back to its lava origins, it gave me the willies.” With this, he started to play.

I’m aware that the video is a bit long, 7 minutes, but I didn’t want to cut too much. I felt like sharing as much as I could of this visceral sound. Enjoy it all, you might discover new elements nobody has perceived yet.

Image: Lab museum of Sardinian sculptor Pinuccio Sciola in San Sperate, Sardinia.

The legacy of Pinuccio Sciola

Probably because I’m a native of Sardinia, I like that the art through which Pinuccio Sciola showed us the memory of the universe comes from my same land.

Our thousand-year-old stone tradition, the magnetic fields around Giants’ Tombs, and the 8,000 stone towers scattered around the whole territory are evidence that Sardinia has always had a special relationship with stones.

Pino Sciola has given us a new dimension regarding sculpture. To the extent that we can enjoy his otherwise only-visual creations also with our eyes closed. By listening to the stones’ otherworldly sound, we have the impression of hearing the planet’s inner voice and the different elements interacting with each other, with our past, present and future blending together.

The first time I met Sciola I asked him when was the exact moment he realized stones could release music and he told me he didn’t know how to answer the question. He’s right, it’s a spontaneous process everybody should go through in order to catch up with a reconnection with the earth, something we have lost somewhere during evolution.

Sometimes I feel that although we, humans, are natural beings, we don’t lead a very natural life. We don’t “earth”, we don’t walk barefoot in nature as often as we are supposed to in order to absorb the planet’s energy, feel relaxed, and be connected with our genuine habitat.

Entering Pinuccio Sciola’s open-air museum (he was walking barefoot) was the first achievement towards this togetherness. A sort of intermediary step.

Pinuccio Sciola lost his battle with cancer and passed away on May 13th, 2016. I feel lucky I had the chance to meet him and see him making music out of stones.

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