Interview with Luca Perciballi
Hi Luca, how was your interest in the guitar born?
My interest in guitar was born i a completely unconscious and casual way during the early years of high school. I come from a very poor musical family: nobody possessing any musical education of any kind, a little habit of listening to music at home. For a strange case of destiny I have always had a keyboard with which, ever since I was young, I began experimenting and transcribing (or rather memorizing) any kind of music I tried to play!
I started to play the guitar because of my growing interest as a listener, almost as responsive to an irresistible inner appeal that led me towards the instrument, wanting to write songs, to make me able to reproduce what I felt in my head. I can see little has changed since then!
What is your music background? I’ve read your curriculum … it’s awesome!
As my passion began to grow, I needed to formalize and deepen the initial studies in local music schools, even in view of my growing passion for music such as jazz and classical music. Here’s why my participation in seminars and masterclasses (Siena Jazz, Umbria Jazz, S.Anna Arresi) and my enrollment at Parma’s A.Boito Conservatory, where I graduated in Jazz Guitar and where I started tto study composing too, completed later with the diploma in that discipline. Later, I studied both fields with a study abroad at the Codarts in Rotterdam.
I think that the salient feature of my training course is the sober interest in two seemingly distant disciplines such as improvisation and rigorous composition. I work actively in both fields, even though I’m primarily an improviser in any situation. I think the ability to solve a problem in real time is an essential tool for writing composition and opens up very interesting thought channels to follow and investigate. I think this dichotomy is the main reason for my encounter with Lawrence Butch Morris, the creator of the Conduction gesture composition, which I’ve been a student and friend for a long time. I learned a lot from him in any musical and human field: he taught me that the conceptual distinction between improvisation and composition does not exist. Obviously the two disciplines have different operating times and contexts, but the final result can always be called “music.”
With what guitar do you play and did you play?
Unlike most electric guitarists I’m not a fetishist, I have not been a collector and I do not spend most of my time discussing guitars.
I choose very few instruments that come with the loveliness of the sweetheart and to which I dedicate special attention.
I currently own only two guitars: a Fender Telecaster and a Gibson 335 from 1978. My love of the moment is this particular White Telecaster, oddly made of centenary pine wood. From the very first moment in hand I could feel an extraordinary feeling with the instrument: very powerful and direct sound, handy comfort and reassuring aesthetics. It’s 5 years that I play only this instrument, after almost 7 of exclusive on 335, a wonderful and noble guitar, but it’s not very well suited to support the timbral choices of my current musical stage. Before that there were other guitars of course, but these are my instrumental loves.
What kind of effects do you use when you play? Do you use some particular pedals?
I feel all about an electric guitarist, so the effects and the whole chain of sound process are an essential part of my being a musician, part of the instrument as the body is the voice of a singer. My “clean” sound is constantly being processed by signal booster, reverb and equalizer. I use the volume pedal as an expression control, simulating the ways of a wind instrument, and the same as distortion. All the other effects (delay, modulation, filters) help to enrich my sound’s palette and make me able to chase a sound, a sound image that I bring in.
I think a very extensive kind of timbre approach is essential for the contemporary musician.
In some projects, such as the Fragile multimedia duo with the painter Mattia Scappini, I make extensive use of samplers, looper, using guitar as a signal source rather than as a traditionally intended instrument.
I also use some objects such as hairpins, plastic cups or springs to prepare the instrument and get percussive sounds: I think everything is permissible as long as analog, manipulable by hand, tangible. I often use computer and digital sequencers in my composer’s work but as a performer I need physical contact with sound production that only “real” objects can give: thinking is inevitably altered by the means used to put it into practice and with years , I noticed that I needed a handcrafted approach to manual construction.
How was born the idea of a work like “How to kill complex numbers” and why did the choice of that title?
“How to kill complex numbers” is a project that I carry forward since 2015 when the need to play alone, as a personal challenge and as a privileged field of research on myself and my instrument, turned out to be inevitable. I lazily and timidly started to hold the first (totally impromptu) concerts without any other problems than to observe what was happening.
In 2016 some events led to the finalization of the project: on the one hand some personal and affective events that brought prosperity and serenity into my life, on the other the victory of the Giorgio Gaslini International Prize. On the push of recognition I realized and conceived “How to kill complex numbers” in a week: over the years I learned that I need years to stratify thoughts and concepts that seem to be unknowingly coming out in a very short time, Without giving me the way to meditate on my constant anxieties and fears. On the one hand, I formalized the elements that emerged during the improvised performances, and on the other, I wrote musical structures that could give me new developmental ideas of what are my materials: sound as a structural element and rhythm as a character of a dramatic action .
The reference to complex numbers derives from their fascinating feature of being composed of a real part and an imaginary part: translated in more literary terms and less rigorous recalls
The dualism between rigorous writing and improvisation, between personal life (theatrically exemplified by song titles) and absolute music, between logical soul and visceral instinct. The desire to metaphorically kill means the will to overcome their own visions and limits to allow things (ideas, creats, and materials) to exist as such, as a living being who has nothing else to offer except himself.
What is improvisation in your music search? Can we go back to talk about improvisation in a repertoire so codified as the classic one or shall we turn to other repertoires like jazz, contemporary, etc?
I think improvisation is the heart of my research and the main means to which I resort to the development of musical ideas. I also apply this to the composition, which I confront with improvisation, like Ligeti’s last works. This does not mean that I do not use preliminary and very accurate schedules, but I often arrange the material and I enjoy watching how it freely changes thanks to the structural features it carries with it.
What is the role of error in your music vision?
It would be said to have the same value in everyday life: something inevitable, inherent in the very nature of things and processes. It is necessary to embrace the mistake just because it is inevitable, only in this way it can be transformed into fertile soil for the germination of new and unexpected ideas.
Could you recommend five discs for you indispensable, to have always with you .. the classic five discs for the deserted island …..
Always a painful question, because it is too difficult to choose. I’m afraid to miss something or to define yourself too much by choosing. If I have to rupture the patch:
Paul Bley with Gary Peacock
Big Satan: Live in Cognitive
Franz Schubert sonata n20 made by Ashkenazy
The Ligeti violin concert made by the Intercontemporain ensemble
Porgy and Bess by Miles Davis
What are your next projects? What are you working on?
I’m currently preparing for my duo’s release with Ivan Valentini, an immensely modenian musician: the duo is called The Black Box Theory and works on total improvisation. I’m also writing a bit of music for my old trio, Slanting Dots. Recently training is the duo with Riccardo La Foresta on the drum where we will work on poetry compositions that I love a lot like Celan, Dylan Thomas and Dickinson. I continue my live activities alone and with the Fragile duo, still finding time for writing music for theater, dance and cinema.
.. a few years ago I read a nice book by Bill Milkowski entitled “Rockers, Jazzbos and Visionaries”. Carlos Santana at one point replied that: “Some people have talent, some people have vision. And vision is more important than talent, obviously.” … what is your vision?
I think if I knew it really would not be more interesting to pursue it, but if I really have to choose I would like to be able to create a sound that has the most basic quality of a painting or any pictorial work: the surface. A sound that exists, which is tangible to the point of touching it.