You have studied at the Milan’s Conservatory, graduating with honors in composition with S. Sciarrino, A. Guarnieri and G. Manzoni and later also in classical guitar. How was the musical scene at the Conservatory in those years and what does it mean for you to have studid with teachers of that level?
You have been for studying in Germany, Switzerland and Japan, what kind of situation have you found in those countries than to the Italian’s one?
Elena Càsoli, Jurgen Ruck, Magnus Andersson, Geoffrey Morris, Massimo Lonardi, Emanuele Forni. You have worked with several classical guitarists, how it was working with each of them? What are for you their characteristics and differences?
Berlioz said that composing for classical guitar because it was difficult to do so must first be guitarists, this phrase was often used as a justification for the limited repertoire of classical guitar with other instruments like piano and violin. At the same time has been increasingly “undermined” by the growing interest in the guitar (whether classical, acoustic, electric, MIDI) collects in contemporary music. As a composer and guitarist, how much do you think that it is still true in the phrase of Berlioz?
Theater of Dawn ((Teatro dell’Alba ) is an idea born in 1993 and completed in 2007 with the Brisbane’s Elision Ensemble, directed by Megan Rowland, paints on video by Ferruccio Bigi, Video by Max Bertolai, © CasaRicordi2007 . Each of SetteStudi has become a duet for guitar and other instrument (Voice, Viola, Tenor Sax, Flute Double Bass, Bass Clarinet, Percussion, Double Bass), which I have added four AudioVideo tracks, a piece for percussion, piano and electronics, two other pieces for Ensemble with all the solo instruments, with also parts for collective improvisation. It ‘s a fantastic theater imagined in one of those old stone and wood houses, belonged to miners and now abandoned a little anywhere in the Alps on the border between Italy and France, Switzerland and Austria. At that hour in which there is no night nor day, seven “spirits” of alpine legends meet in the remains of one of these houses and that indefinable moment between darkness and light is expanded by the music. Central to the work is “7”, written in the days of the passing of Frank Zappa and dedicated to him, until the final -Dawn- where video and the pen’s sound that writes on the score complements with the performance of the ensemble. The guitar is the main instrument throughout all this opera, Geoffrey Morris was the absolute protagonist facing the work with great seriousness and interpretative force: the Ensemble plays behind the curtain covering the scene and on which are projected videos, enlightened now from the video, now from the lights. Therefore all appear or disappear while the guitarist, with a camera on the handle of the instrument, is always hidden by a curtain, we see only great hands moving projected live on the screen that hides it.
The label ZONE is a kind of signature, the mark that distinguishes a good part of your work, how can it be defined? A group of musicians? A Cultural interface?
Of all the definitions of ZONE, “cultural interface” is among the most appropriate, I like it and it also expresses part of the poetic motivations. The name derives from the suggestions received from the film Stalker, by Andrei Tarkovsky, where the “zone” is an environment where everything is on the verge of being otherwise, without the possibility of a backward path. You turn your head and the road you just traveled is already changed. In practice, from about 1993, the idea of zones has become this: “a project, group, idea changing around my music, where I myself was involved in the Live Electronics or the electric guitar MIDI. On the keyboard of this guitar, now become a Virtual Ensemble, move the inhabitants of ZONE: samples of percussion by Maurizio Ben Omar, Jonny Axelsson and Kuniko Kato, voices by Luisa Castellani, Marco Bortoli, Ursula Joss and Deborah Kaiser, sound engineers Alvise Vidolin, Davide Rocchesso and Hubert Westkemper, handled sound objects, people like the Master of Kali Maurizio Maltese, actors like Elena Callegari, Riccardo Raimondi and Annig Magherini, signatures and voices by Robert Sanesi and Thor Vilhjalmsson, the ancient Flutes by Antonio Politano, Kees Boeke and Carsten Eckert, flutes by Manuel Zurria, Sax by Jörgen Pettersson, Pierre Stephane Meugè, Frederico Mondelci and Jam- Paoletti, piano by Marianne Schroeder, Oscar Pizzo and Massimo Somenzi, cellos by Mario Brunello and Francesco Dillon, the guitars of Elena Càsoli, Jürgen Ruck, Magnus Andersson and Geoffrey Morris, trombonist Ivo Nilsson, pictures by Gianni Di Capua, Max Bertolai, Marcos Jorge, paints by Ferruccio Bigi and Salvatore Zito, artists who live actively contemporary thought and that, scattered everywhere, they travel the ZONE.”
You have created, along with Elena Càsoli, LArecords, an independent label dedicated to meetings and special productions between music and literature. Do you want to talk about this project and its achievements? Next records? How does the crisis in the music market, with the transition from digital downloading in mp3 and all this new scenario? (LArecords: http://www.larecords.it/home.shtml )
The application combines two aspects – idea and market – that are often considered as related and interdependent, but in my opinion things are nolt like this. I will answer in order:
– The idea: “LA” comes from “labii reatum,” the note name in the mnemonic formula derived by Guido d’Arezzo from a hymn by Paolo Diacono. The historic recall was necessary to declare the literary and poetic origin of this label: LArecords was born from the encounter with the poet Roberto Sanesi (vedi: Roberto Sanesi), whose voice is became one of my composition’s instruments. From that moment LAbii reatum is all these significant voices, Sanesi, the Icelandic Thor Vilhjalmsson (see: MPaRkvik_Vilhjalmsson), Irino Reiko Takashi, impurity of the lip, the fault of the story and conceal-reveal the secrets that the poet re-creates in every pages. Beneath the logo there is: “LAbii reatum, the fault of the lip is the pleasure to tell. We think like a fairy tale. We listen to it. Can You see it?”
-Market and technology: These CDs are made to be present in limited numbers and in different places. This is also the rule of a certain market, which teaches to shift particular products, but for us it is just a default state of mind: our activities don’t walk along known roads, it takes place primarily outside (and then, by force : most of the world is “foreign”) and so our CDs are in the hands of artists of all kinds all over the world. Coming to MP3 then I would say that it leads to deviations from the standard top, mp3’s compression penalizes certain frequencies for unmatched portability, very few persons imagined an mp3 market, only some lovers of HiFi sensed and horrified at the thought.
But now the main music “store” in the U.S. is iTunes, the chances are greater, and be careful: they live together. Almost nothing is missing. There is hip hop, mcing and battles, DJing, beatboxing, remix, vintage … and everything is sound. Still there are music – not only mainstream music – that arise for vinyl, still the record productions used DAT and ADAT in conjunction with the digital HD, the files move from optical fibers and are sometimes sent on this way to the final mastering. Meanwhile, the development of poetry and technology changes in its own way the markets: shall we suffer perhaps for the disappearance of imprint or horsehair, or buttons made of ivory, which we found to be “harmful” for walrus or elephant, lead pipes harmful to the organs players, or about the “eight” shape of the guitar harmful, who knows, for the mathematicians? In short, I think that mp3 download is only one aspect of the overflowing -and, maybe, positive- supply of the musical material. The market for CD sufferers, but it is going to suicide itself being the first to be indifferent to musical qualità and so it is going to get a natural reduction: I think this is because the false idea that a market should only grow basino itself only on needs induced and independent of the product, while the musician need quality. And here’s the answer to a paradox: history teaches that the “ways of quality” are endless, and I’m interested that the quality’s transmission paths will remain endless. Faced with a decline of the CD (its sales), we will invent a way to continue broadcasting, but not to solve a market problem. I do not deny the need for a business, often I’m the first to complain about the difference with the other arts, but I react to the attempt to shift the market problem on artist’s shoulders, which is only a selling problem, interest and necessity induced, in a wise guide of the spontaneity of the mass.
I have noticed in recent years, a gradual rapprochement between the two aspects of avant-garde music, the most academic’s one and the other side the one brought forward by musicians far away from the classical canon and from areas such as jazz, electronics and extreme rock like Fred Frith, John Zorn, the New York downtown scene and some electronic music labels such as Sub Rosa and the Mille Plateux influenced by the thought of Deleuze and Guattari. What do you think about these possible interactions and do you think that there is some place for them in Italy too? In addition, we often hear about improvisation, sometimes unpredictable improvisation in contemporary music at times confusing it with the action and the game of chance like in Cage, what’s the meaning of improvisation in your music research?
It’s important for the deepening of these thoughts and perhaps part of the music goes in this direction, but the musician has to do with sound and sometimes I get the feeling of listening to atavistic and imaginary tribal rituals, in a nalmost limbic and primary vision about human activity.That said: I think about, rather than the desires, the needs – which is even more primordial, if not prenatally – and I would build “sound bodies” , almost with the possibility of self-learning, which feed the needs of the invention. I feel necessary a further need for growth. There is the risk to be needlessly provocative, but currently the improvisation that interests me is not the waya already traversed by the guys, we have turned and played with our instruments, played barefoot with all sorts of objects, it was great, personally I still do when samples of that type are necessary, but I think, alive, it is time to improvvisatori like … Beethoven: Yes, composers. Inventors, musicians very confident with the instrument, a quick dial where, paradoxically, are still present even more Frank Zappa or Miles Davis. About Beethoven-for us one of the masters of formal control- the critics of his time have said about him that he was an improviser, who does not know the shape of a real composer ….! Zappa himself is still illuminating: “Music is made by the composer … the composer is the kind of person who goes around forcing his will on unsuspecting air molecules, often assisted in his work from unsuspecting musicians .. . if you can think about a project you can also run a project: it is basically just a bunch of air molecules, who will control them? words probably derived from Edgar Varese: “… what I get to do is disturb the atmosphere, because, after all, the sound is only atmospheric turbulence.” So here is the natural approach between the genders, an improvisation that becomes atmospheric turbulence, thought and organized sound. I’m looking for companions therefore not among meteorologists, but, so to speak, between the winds that concern them.
I think you are talking about systems of notation rather than the compositional procedures, even if sometimes it happens to me to merge the two into a process of mutual generation, as I will say later. -For the notation, in my opinion the softwares are too traditional, bound to the world of fonts and their quantization in such a way to permit anyone, beginner or not, to hear the result. These softwares are not born for professional publishing, then instead they have evolved in that direction becoming the standard of high quality. But they still suffer for their origins and the sequencer’s amateur mentality: being not free from the possibility of listening, or at least making it removable from the process of writing, they can not free themselves from the ordinary position of the musical objects, are still weak in terms of graphics and force sometimes to cumbersome routes to achieve easy and simple results that are often the result of long reflections and researchs about the essentials of the sign.
-Then there are also always more technical and personal procedures: the hand I made throught the copyist’s experience teached me the possibilities to use all together: paper, pen, scanner, software graphics, layout, audio and video editing. Once the notes are in an advanced stage with “Finale” I organize scores and layout guidelines (yes, I use it now mainly as an illustrator of rows). Then I bring the armor or the header of the instruments in a page layout program. Then, on separate sheets, I hand-write pages or fragments of music that I work graphically Finally, I organize the fragments in the layout, synchrony and agogo, phrases, drawing from a palette of symbols manipulated that I have built. Here I also incorporates images of audio or audio-video tracks: wave forms, frames of video, or algorithms MaxMSP. Literally so: my desk is around me, it is a multimedia and multitasking workstation, with everything turned on.In a sense I privilege the “writing”, understood as what expresses relations about collocation and translation, as they were mosaic’s fragments for SpiegelKontaktFabrik or even animals footprints. It’s the case of the Trio that I have composed last year, “GlyphoZoo”, which was based on hypothetical signs, left on the edges of forest streams, by imaginary creatures born to score or add signs. They are sticks, threads, smooth barks and evocative forms that I’ve collected in a kind of sign’s zoo. For all I invented a story and a relationship with the signs: Calamus, Mostrofoglio, Monstre Grisanche and others, with scientific name and a common name. Durino the concert the Zoo will be visible and video animated, as well as open after the execution. I mention this because the guitar is in the organic (Violin, Guitar, Accordion, Track AudioVideo) and because, in this case, forms and processes originate also from the imaginative writers behaviors of creatures: those who leave a mark on the sand, some on Mostrofoglio, who turns past, who is still indecipherable.
In your films on youtube and in your music, I noticed a care and attention for both images and sounds, do you think that your music can be defined as potentially cinematic? Have you never planned about composing music for movie soundtracks?
I respond with two significant experiences about the importance of image for me. Years ago I got a scholarship for a trip to Tokyo for three months to work on the piece “STOCK – ZONE Taku hon”: I found a Japanese book in Amsterdam about forty feet long bound to folders, which narrates the journey on a river made by a poet and a painter of the Edo period, a symbolic journey from the Kyoto-Osaka, form the formality of the capital Kyoto to the city of renewal. During the trip, on the same roll of paper one paints the river and the journey, the other writes poems.
For me, it was not just a framework: it actually had a beginning and an end, and therefore it was not just a book. I have seen a kind of ante litteram cinema, without music. From here was born STOCK, musical store directed by Ferruccio Bigi at Teatro Studio in Milan, for MilanoMusica, original texts by Roberto Sanesi and Carlo Sini, with a real boat that glided between two rows of arches carrying the cellist Mario Brunello, while Maurizio BenOmar was playing the outer and inner woods of the boat itself. In subtitle -ZONE Taku-hon was indicated precisely the technique used by the two artists to print the job: a technique of printing, where the sign is represented as such in almost a copy negative. A few years later, in perfect continuity with the Copiafavole-ZONE (Laser Copier, Electric Guitar, Guitar, 2Voices, Percussions, Viola, Flute, 2 Tango dancers, Track AudioVideo) at the Piccolo Teatro Regio in Turin, I have brought to the scene the sounds of a copier “performed” live, with copies of the hands of musicians like their real signatures, autographs body offered to the public. (vedi: Copiafavole01)
Therefore image is of fundamental importance for me as an element of writing, expressing it self in time, sign and moving image. I then also composed music for film, the first was “Vormittagsspuk” for the eponymous film by Hans Richter, and the second “ZONE-d’Amore” for “The Inhumaine” of Marcel L’Herbier. Two historical films for which I have prepared both an audio track, and a part to perform live together with the audio track (and the guitar was always among the instruments I used). These are followed by “ZONE-Spidersound”, a short movie by Max Bertolai with paintings by Salvatore Zito Spider-Man’s icon, “La Stanza degli Indizi Terrestri” with Marcos Jorges, “Children’s War Questions”, composed during the war years in Iraq, always with Max Bertolai on Goya’s pictures. Currently my interest is shifting towards the luminous phenomenon also in general, from which the new duo named ironicaly “FLASHetBIP” with the lighti designer Fulvio Michelazzi.
The blog is read also by young graduates and graduates, what advice can you give to those who, after years of study, decided to start a career as a musician?