#Interview to Massimo Menotti (February 2016) on #neuguitars #blog

Foto: Stefania Bellini

How did start your interest about the guitar? With that instruments instruments do you play and have you played?

My interest for the guitar was born and grew along with  my more general interest about music, continuing my studies at the Conservatory, where I accosted the study of classical guitar to composition. The guitar was thus the first and the main sinstrument with which I approached the musical practice.

I have different types of guitars, which I use according to the needs and circumstances; the ones I use most frequently are: a classical guitar made by luthier Luigi Locatto, a Gibson Les Paul Custom and a Ovation with nylon string.

What were and are your main musical influences?

I would say the ‘900 music as a whole and in all its aspects and genres: from classical music to rock, jazz, electronic music; in particular I could indicate minimalism, ambient music and experimental music. But I believe that various suggestions borrowed from visual arts and contemporary literature have influenced my way of understanding music.

How was born the idea to make a record like Minimalist Guitar Music? Have you had any contact with Glass and Reich during its realization?

For a long time I deal with so-called minimal music and more recently I have been part of Timegate, an ensemble specialized in this repertoire. It was therefore a rather natural passage to rethink all the work made in these years, arriving to define it thorough a registration.

When I transcribe a piece made by a contemporary composer, I always try to get in touch with the author for permission to proceed and possibly to submit my adaptation; so it was also for the scores of Minimalist Guitar Music. In 1993 I turned to Steve Reich through his publisher, Universal Edition, London, for his opinion on the possible execution of Piano Phase for two guitars; Reich authorized me to proceed, provided that the height of the sounds were maintained in the original octave. I spoke with Philip Glass instead about the possibility of playing with guitar his Two Pages in 2003, during one of his concerts only in Rovereto; Also in this case the opinion was favorable. Finally, in 2011 I went back in touch with Glass, this time through his publishing house Dunvagen Music, to submit my transcript of Music in Similar Motion for guitar quartet. Then, when I was looking for any possibility to release this record, I was told that since the Orange Mountain Music (the record label by Philip Glass) holds the rights about all the works of Glass, to obtain permission to publish them, I should first submit their master copy of the album, that in the meantime I was finishing. So then I did, but instead of simply authorize me to release, I was asked to release the cd with them.

Why did you choose these three scores? Have you ever thought to record even the most famous Electric Counterpoint?

I play Electric Counterpoint by Steve Reich in 1992 when I played him in concert for the first time; in fact from the beginning I had been considering a program of minimalist music for guitar that could have predicted another repertoire, the more heterogeneous and with compositions originally intended for our instrument, which Ripples by Nicky Hind or Alexandrins by Tom Johnson. Later in the project, however, I estimated the idea of proposing a more defined program, so opting for the two main exponents of New York’s minimalism, Steve Reich and Philip Glass, and limiting the choice of repertoire, chronologically and stylistically, their early minimalist works.

Piano Phase is a song of 1967, in which Steve Reich applied for the first time on live instruments the phasing’s technique, previously developed in his works for tape It’s Gonna Rain and Come Out, and that subsequently characterized the majority of his musical production, at least until Drumming. Two Pages of 1968 presents the first rigorous use of the additive and subtractive processes by Philip Glass; while you may consider Music in Similar Motion, composed in 1969, as a turning point in the minimalist production of Glass, for the introduction of an ‘open system’ development and for the ‘sense of drama’ caused by the successive entrances of the four items that make up the piece, as he was able to clarify Glass himself. So I chose three ones that I believe can be considered fundamental about Philip Glass and Steve Reich’s production, made only year of difference, all in a crucial moment in the development of minimalist repertoire.

A few years ago, in 2005, Dominic Frasca has recorded in his disc Deviations his own version of  Two Pages, you’ve never had the opportunity to evaluate his transcription?

No, I don’t know theTwo Pages version by Dominic Frasca, but I know his Electric Guitar Phase, his adaptation for four electric guitars of Violin Phase by Steve Reich.

What significance has improvisation in your music research? Can we get back to talk about improvisation in the classical repertoire as well as coded or we’re forced to get out and turn to other repertoires, like jazz, contemporary, etc?

I played for many years with the ree improvisation group f Mount Analogue, an ensemble with a variable organic that includes musicians from different backgrounds, interested to confront each other through the practice of improvisation. In addition, I dedicate some time to create ‘open’ electric guitar loops in real time, stylistically attributable to Frippertronics that Robert Fripp developed between the ’70s and early’ 80s, in which improvisation is an essential and vital component. Both of these musical experiences, I have encouraged, dialogue with other forms of expression such as poetry, theater, dance, video and visual arts, and I believe that this willingness to discuss is intimately connected with the opening, the immediacy and the ‘hazard implicit in the practices of improvisation.

It’s known that improvisation has currently not much space in the training and professional life of a classical musician, which therefore remains usually displaced to meet the requirement of dealing with this musical practice. Regard to my experience, I think I can say that improvisation helped me to develop a more direct relationship with the instrument and with the musical text; So I recognize this practice an important educational, as well as artistic value.

Your technique is really excellent, how much is still important to have a good technique for a guitarist or bassist? I ask because I am reminded of an anecdote: in the 70’s Robert Fripp, heavily disputed by some punk who considered himself a dinosaur said seraphic “who is a slave of the technique? Who has too much or who does not? “

I believe that to refer to a more general definition of such technical ability operate in order to achieve a goal, it can help us turn our attention to what is at the same time should be the reason and purpose of instrumental technique, which is the correct expression a musical thought. So, in my opinion, the study of the technique should be on making the best possible performance of their musical vision; practice that may prove to be a compelling research, as well as a responsibility. I would like to propose a concrete example, referring to the repertoire of my disc mentioned earlier, Minimalist Guitar Music. I have a classical training, exercises based on technical and fundamental instrument developed through the study of traditional classical guitar repertoire. When I had to face for the first time works as Two Pages, which basically is a monophonic song lasting about 23 minutes consistsing of an uninterrupted succession of eighth notes on only five notes, I had new problems about uniformity of sound, rhythmic precision, sealing, phrasing, etc., that had very little to do with the study of the traditional classical repertoire and that led me to a fundamental look at some aspects of my instrumental technique; the point then becomes not just ‘how much’ technique, but also ‘what’ technique is necessary. I would remind me too an other Robert Fripp’s sentence, who I happened to mention in my classes, meeting a student in difficulty for a problem of instrumental nature: “If in doubt, consult the tradition. If you are still in doubt, consult your experience. If you are still in doubt, consult your body. “

I sometimes feel that in our time the music’s history flows without a particular interest in its chronological course, in our music library before and after, the past and the future become interchangeable, could this present a risk for an interpreter and a composer of a uniform vision? A music “globalization”?

I think that the risk, if risk is, undifferentiated and globalization in our time is a total of more cultural and anthropological, rather than just chronological. Many artistic productions of our time is characterized by the rejection of dichotomies such as tradition and modernity, true and false, elite culture and mass culture, which characterized the historical periods immediately preceding. I think this is indicative of the abolition of critical distance, typical of the contemporary condition, in which, as rightly said, “before and after, the past and the future become interchangeable.” However, I believe that ultimately it ‘s responsibility of the artists try to give a creative answer, and possibly convincing to this problem; musicians – among the many examples that could make me come to mind Robert Ashley, Jon Hassell, Michael Nyman, Laurie Anderson, Brian Eno, John Zorn – they did.

What advice would you give to a young man today would record his disc or start a professional carrer as a musician?

Today, making a disc can be very different as it was some times ago. With the increasingly affordable components cost necessary for the preparation of a good home studio, it’s now possible to register for a relatively reduced price an album with excellent sound quality. In addition, printing, distribution, and maybe its promotion of physical media – CD or vinyl – are no longer the only way to make a record: the music files in various digital formats, compressed or uncompressed, and their spread through the many channels that offer Internet, offer an extremely diverse and increasingly popular. Considering also the different ways of using it inevitably implies a landscape so composite, I think it is essential if you want to make a record to think about what it intends to propose, in what format, to whom you want to address and which through. However, I do not think I’m the best person to give this kind of advice; I usually have to ask for advice to friends younger musicians!

Last question: a few years ago, during an interview with Bill Milkowski for his book “Rockers, Jazzbos and Visionaries” Carlos Santana said, “Some people have talent, some people have vision. And vision is more important then talent, obviously.” I think you have a great talent, but … what is your vision?

The constant search for new points of view.