The Lady of Lethe​

A piece inspired by painting “The Waters of Lethe by the Plains of Elysium”, by John Roddam Spencer Stanhope, 1880.

I was struck in particular by the figure of the woman advancing towards the river in tears. There is a world of memories she carries with her, and to start a new life she would have to wipe that slate clean. Looking at the painting, I thought that perhaps the river of forgetfulness would not be able to remove all the memories of that woman. I wanted to express this in the small graphic elaboration that accompanies this piece, which I would like to dedicate to all women and men who would like, though cannot, forget.

“Now, in a secret vale, the Trojan sees A sep’rate grove, thro’ which a gentle breeze Plays with a passing breath, and whispers thro’ the trees; And, just before the confines of the wood, The gliding Lethe leads her silent flood. About the boughs an airy nation flew, Thick as the humming bees, that hunt the golden dew; In summer’s heat on tops of lilies feed, And creep within their bells, to suck the balmy seed: The winged army roams the fields around; The rivers and the rocks remurmur to the sound. Aeneas wond’ring stood, then ask’d the cause Which to the stream the crowding people draws. Then thus the sire: “The souls that throng the flood Are those to whom, by fate, are other bodies ow’d: In Lethe’s lake they long oblivion taste, Of future life secure, forgetful of the past. Long has my soul desir’d this time and place, To set before your sight your glorious race, That this presaging joy may fire your mind To seek the shores by destiny design’d.” (The Aeneid by Virgil, Translated by John Dryden (1697),

“Interea uidet Aeneas in ualle reducta seclusum nemus et uirgulta sonantia siluae, Lethaeumque domos placidas qui praenatat amnem. hunc circum innumerae gentes populique uolabant: ac ueluti in pratis ubi apes aestate serena floribus insidunt uariis et candida circum lilia funduntur, strepit omnis murmure campus. horrescit uisu subito causasque requirit inscius Aeneas, quae sint ea flumina porro, quiue uiri tanto complerint agmine ripas. tum pater Anchises: 'animae, quibus altera fato corpora debentur, Lethaei ad fluminis undam securos latices et longa obliuia potant. has equidem memorare tibi atque ostendere coram iampridem, hanc prolem cupio enumerare meorum, quo magis Italia mecum laetere reperta.'” (Publius Vergilius Maro, Aeneis, Liber VI, 703—718,

“Intanto Enea per entro a la gran valle Vide scevra da l’altre una foresta, I cui rami sonar da lunge udiva. A piè di questa era di Lete il rio Ch’ai dilettosi e fortunati campi Correa davanti, e piene avea le ripe Di genti innumerabili ch’intorno A caterve alïando ivano in guisa Che fan le pecchie a’ chiari giorni estivi, Quando di fiore in fior, di giglio in giglio Si van posando, e per l’apriche piagge Dolcemente ronzando. Enea, che nulla Di ciò sapea, di súbito stupore Fu sopraggiunto, e la cagion spiando,

O, disse, padre, che riviera è quella? E che gente, e che mischia, e che bisbiglio? L’anime, gli rispose, a cui dovuti Sono altri corpi, a questo fiume accolte Béon dimenticanze e lunghi oblii

De l’altra vita; e questi io desiava Che tu vedessi, e che da me n’udissi I nomi e i gesti, onde contezza appieno Del nostro sangue, e piena gioia avessi De l’acquisto d’Italia.” (Eneide, Italian translation by Annibal Caro (1581),

This piece was created by using my two musical boxes, as I call the engines responsible for translating orbits into notes. A peculiar aspect of The Lady Of Lethe is the fact that the two phenotypes I obtained were mixed with a tiny drift from each other (4/10th of a second). This fact introduced interesting and quite unexpected results!