These days I’ve been composing very little, my main focus has been writing and I guess I’ll end up with different texts that I might spend in different ways quite soon.
My interests has shifted and I’ve started growing fond again of what was my primary field of studies, politics and sociology. I think the position I’m in is very privileged to observe and imagine different application of what I’ve learnt so far.
First, I’m part of a field, the arts, that represent an exception to how the normal capitalistic society works which is very interesting, because despite it’s subversive look and the refusal of many kinds of hierarchies which are common in our world, this field endorses structures of hierarchy which are even more constrictive and intrinsically exclusive. Moreover, one that is involved in the art system is never immune by the first structure, the one of the capitalist society, resulting in a concentric matryoshka-like structure of power which confirms a system by questioning it. Exactly like Carnival, a momentary subversion of a system that shows the true nature of that system itself, only to reconfirm it. By observing and reporting the contradiction of this functioning I expect to be able to increase an awareness about the toxic influence of the market on our work as artists.
Especially, I belong to a field of arts - electroacoustic music - which is mostly linked to the academic work and strongly dependent on technology. The pyramidal structure of the ivory tower is something that the artist has to either fully accept or refuse completely, there is very few artists who are respected in the academic environment and also know outside of it. Being able to observe its mechanisms from within is a very interesting thing to do.
Third, I’ve had the chance to study in depth how Ambisonics work and I believe it is a very interesting technology which is being used in a way that I don’t find especially interesting. The use of ambisonics in the field of cinema and videogame is surely an option, but a very capitalistic one. The use of it in the field of acousmatic music composition is modifying some modality without really influencing the aesthetic of what it is nowadays a pretty codified and fixed music genre. I believe ambisonics can be used as a very good documentation tool, as few others have done before me. Artists and researchers doing field recordings with ambisonics sound, have mostly been investigating nature, as the best example of immersive sound environment which is disappearing. This has been done with a strong moral attitude, usually linked to the environmental crisis. But I believe that this tool can be used also to document musical practices of human groups that make of the space one if their key feature. For instance thinking of the women zirk of the Kist community in the Pankisi Valley of Georgia, the space for the performance/ritual is carefully, but subconsciously, selected and it is not at all casual. Certain space acoustics, buildings, musician placement, respond to performative necessities which are just very hard to grasp without a spatial-conservative recording technique. A study of this kind would be especially fruitful as an analysis of how space acoustics contribute to the successful performance of mystic practices and how the environment contribute to the catharsis. It could be linked to the study of the atmospheres in architecture and perception studies, with specific links to the work of Gernot Böhme and Tim Ingold and might open up for a different method in ethnography.
On the first of March I flew to Italy. I had only a few days to rehearse before the concerts I had planned with my duo DASPO. Sure we knew that Italy was having problems with Covid-19 but the situation seemed pretty regular at that time, we were completely unaware of what would have happened just a few days later.
At the time of my flight the tour looked like this:
5. March - Bellizzi (SA)
6. March - Napoli
7. March - Bologna
10. March - Siena
11. March - Rome
We were supposed to play our first gig on the 5th of March in Bellizzi (SA), the club we were playing at was a really small one, but we needed that concert as a dressed rehearsal for the concerts to come. Jaromir Mulders, a multimedia artist from the Netherlands that we met when we lived in Utrecht was also joining for the release concert in Napoli at L’Asilo, a big venue in my hometown that we knew we would fill up, and the concert in Bologna that was planned in a contemporary art space called Gallleriapiù.
Of course nothing went as planned, new anti-Covid regulations were introduced day after day and our concerts were either cancelled or reconsidered. The one in Napoli became the occasion to perform an audiovisual performance without audience to use afterwards, the one in Bologna became a radio show. I realized the situation was pretty bad and I was lucky enough to manage to leave Italy just before the lockdown, but it took me two extra flight bookings. Since I came back I’ve been in full isolation, as prescribed by the government.
This situation is making me think a lot and heavily pulling over the feelings that were already hanging on me earlier. I love what I do, I love it enormously, but the market and the music environment disgust me to a point that make me feel extremely depressed. In the past three years I must say that I’ve become much better at knowing what I had to do and when in order to gain what I wanted. I can say that I’ve become better at my work… but I don’t really know if I’ve become a better musician.
At the moment I feel completely blocked. I can write about music, I can write about society and the market, I can talk and read and write about what's happening around me and talk about my role in it, but I can't see the relevance of my work. The idea of making music in the same way I did before repels me.
As I said earlier, February has been a very active month. Other than the trip to Tbilisi and the concert with Trevor Wishart I also played two more concerts.
On the 12 of February I played at SERENDIP festival in a completely new ensemble featuring me on synth, Simen Wie on electric bass and Jormar Jeppsson Søvik on drums. We had few rehearsals before and our sets turned out to be very gestural noise beasts of roaring power that I enjoyed a lot. The concert was 45 minutes of absolute mayhem which was surprisingly very well received. It was recorded and I will mix it to turn it into a demo we can use to book more concerts and do more. It's pretty rare that I'm satisfied with a concert to this extent and that I want to keep playing in newly established formations but this time I was and I wish we will be able to do more in the future.
On the 29th instead I presented a new piece of mine at the first acousmatic concert organized by the NyMusikk Komponistgruppe.
The piece I presented is called "Albēdo - ti porto sempre con me anche se non te lo dico mai" and it was the one I started composing at EMS a few months earlier. I can't say much about this piece, it was truly an emotional outpouring of feelings that have been haunting me in the past months. I spent a lot of time asking myself whether the choices i did were the right ones and if I was following a satisfying path. I am doing great, my career is going well and I think that I'm doing everything I'm supposed to do in the best possible way, yet... This all idea of art production and the schemes, the networking, the environments, the market, it all really kills me.
Maybe I'm emotionally not ready, maybe I had expectations about this field which were a bit too idealistic, maybe I am just too idealistic. But I have maybe given up too much of the simple things which I will have to recover to feel grounded and happy.
It's funny that what I'm writing comes to my mind in the moment when I have known that Albēdo and Strade fatte a memoria were selected for two very prestigious festivals of acousmatic music: Kling Gut in Hamburg, one of the leading events in Europe for 3D immersive music and BEAST Feast, where I got the chance to finally perform my music on that amazing sound theatre. Also at Latimpe in Vienna they chose a presentation I submitted which illustrated the work we did in Tbilisi, but to that one we have agreed on sending Mike.
On the 15th of February I was again flying to Tbilisi, this time final adjustments for the festivals needed to be made and I was continuing the discourse about the soundscape that I’ve started last time. In addiction to this, Mike and Mariam asked me to have two electroacoustic music listening sessions for our students that would help to create a context for the music that we are talking about and making.
The first of my lectures was mostly about the importance of the environmental sound in sound art and the concept of horizontal mapping, as suggested by Leandro Pisano in his book Nuove Geografie Del Suono.
I started the discourse using theories and classifications by Bernie Krause and David Monacchi in comparison to the original Soundscape categories of Murray Schafer to show how different “filters” of an environmental recording provide different ways to read it and different informations to retrieve. This background was used to introduce mapping as a tool to investigate reality, and by highlighting the differences between any vertical “2D” visual map and a sound map with all the significances they afford. From this, we also touched the concept of the Third Landscape, as illustrated by Gilles Clement, and demonstrated how areas that are apparently sterile, abandoned, fringes, can tell stories that are invisible to the eye.
The second Lecture was meant to shake all the knowledge we accessed in our last talks, we went using Hildegard Westerkamp together with True and Monacchi to define what is soundscape composition. Once we found a definition for it, we went on dismantling this definition using texts of Carlo Serra and Tim Ingold to question whether such a fixed idea of it actually helps us or not.
For the listening sessions: I did one session based on the development of the aesthetic of GRM, featuring pieces of the early GRM times, mostly by Henry, Parmegiani and Chion. The second was instead focusing on the use of the voice in electroacoustic music, I used the fact that singing is such a big part of the Georgian music tradition as an excuse to create a narrative thread in our listening, featuring pieces by Berio, Wishart, Harvey and Parmerud.
This trip was also for me emotionally very relevant, I bought a Panduri by an old builder who lived in the old town, close to the cathedral, he told me stories of the Georgian resistance and shared his wine with me. It was a great experience that I’ll bring with me forever.
Between January and February we hosted Trevor Wishart for a series of guest lectures and a concert. He is an internationally renown British composer who has been a pioneer in the development of digital technologies applied to music and composition. In particular he developed the CDP, composer desktop project, a command line software used for transformation, which together with his distinctive use of the voice, resulted in some famous masterpieces in the electroacoustic music genre. Red Bird and the VOX cycle are surely among those, but his lectures mostly revolved around his last pieces, which would then be played at the concert.
I was asked to perform one of Trevor Wishart’s pieces over our loudspeaker orchestra, the piece I played was Vox 5, which also originally was a quadriphonic piece but was later reduced into stereo to be released on a CD. The diffusion I did for this piece was based on the idea of association, treating every sound not for what it was but for what it resembled. I did my analysis of every small section of the piece and ended up with flocks of birds, swarms of bees, warped human utterances of which I tried to imitate the behavior and reproduce the intrinsic gesture in the space. Especially the end, a big roaring storm disappearing in silence over the time of one and a half minute, was treated starting from the front, menacing; then getting closer, becoming all around the listener with sudden directional bursts, then faded back over the speakers on the balcony so to make only the reflections hearable. I was very happy about the piece and I think that together with a piece by Juhani Silvola I played the about one year earlier, that was the best diffusion performance of another person’s piece I did.
After Christmas holidays and coming back to Norway, January has been a month of preparation for a big February to come. Most relevantly, I’ve been working non-stop towards the upcoming release of my first record with the duo DASPO, a duo consisting of me and Davide Palmentiero.
Davide is a composer, improvisor and guitarist with whom I have had a long collaboration, many concerts, but not any actual work to be released. This work, a 20 min train trip divided into 5 acts, is something we started when we were living together in the Netherlands, a time of relentless work and isolation that produced an insane amount of material. Every sound in that release - with the exception of couple of field recordings and one of the violin tracks - was recorded in the anechoic chamber of the Utrecht School of the Arts. The idea was that every ambience in the record would be digitally made, fake, symbolic and crystal clear, to elaborate the concept of a virtual landscape, the mirror image of our train trips, an idealization of what we would see and hear, with all the mythology and the stylization of our filtered perception.
The physical copies of our record arrived, ready to be shipped to the people who preordered it, some of them were sent further to magazines, radios and web pages for reviews and plays, we were also starting to publish dates for concerts that we were to do in Italy and Norway in March and April. Things were flowing well and we were expecting a very sparkling February.
December was another very important moment for my path as an acousmonium performer. I played on the final round of the concourse “L’espace du Son”. This competition happens every second year at the INFLUX festival, which is the festival organized by Annette Vande Gorne in Bruxelles.
My excitement was huge, and it increased even further after I discovered who else was playing: François Bayle and Francis Dhomont were opening the festival on the first night’s concert, Hans Tutschku - who I was very curious to see performing - was also playing.
The first concert was incredibile. I must say that I’ve been arguing in the past that many of the new works of both the French composers might be aesthetically irrelevant today. I’m still of that Idea, the pieces they played didn’t really stand out and were just incomparable to other kinds of masterpieces they got us used to. But the craft, that one can appreciate only through actually an attentive listening in the acousmonium, was incredible. The experience of these two musicians was just so great that the room was singing and the space was alive. I think this concert was one of the best sound experiences of the past two years for me.
The four pieces I got to play at the concerts were the following ones:
- Zone by M.Marcoux, the assigned piece that everyone had to perform. I was not very fond of it but I must admit that it was probably a good piece to show off certain diffusion techniques
- Offshore by David Berezan, I picked this one because I think that the kind of glittery sounds he uses and the big bass presence are features that I can find often again in my own pieces, and it would have felt like playing something that I felt confident with.
- Le vertige inconnu by Gilles Gobeil, this was the first of the two pieces randomly selected from a batch of my choice. I am especially connected to this piece which was the first I ever analyzed at the beginning of my bachelor. I know the piece very well and I like its power.
- Turenas by John Chowning, this is a real classic, also chosen randomly from that batch. It proved itself to be a real challenge. While being aesthetically fitting my set, because it was very different in terms of sounds and felt very refreshing, it was also very long and originally not meant for spatialization. In facts this is a quadriphonic piece of which we had a stereo reduction. I tried to work it out in the best possible way but I must admit it wasn’t easy.
The performance went very well and I was pretty satisfied in the end. After the concert I knew I had been quite unorthodox in my way of playing. I was very loud and I deliberately chose not to accompany every musical gesture. I liked my sounds to act more static too, creating big walls, overwhelming immersive pictures.
I didn’t win - the price was given ex-aequo to Emma Margetson, a PhD student in Birmingham who I met the year before, and to Raphaele Dupire, a pupil of Denis Dufour, whose performance I really liked a lot - but I had the chance to have a quick exchange with François Bayle after my performance, who complimented my verve and personality. This got me high.
But it would not be me if I was completely uncritical, therefore I feel the urge to express how, even here, the stress put on networking was huge. I felt often a bit lost in the movements of the people around me, the way people interacted, who was I supposed to talk to? And why?
I started growing the feeling that this way of behaving in the field does not suit my personality and makes me very uncomfortable. I rarely had any meaningful conversation in any of these situations.
November was a very intense month.
As the first surprise of the month I got selected as a finalist of the spatialization competition L’Espace Du Son and was invited to play a concert in Bruxelles on the Influx Acousmonium.
This speaker system which, because of its philosophy and specs, is not “just” a speaker system but behaves alike a real instrument, is the acousmonium established by Annette Vande Gorne in Bruxelles in the early eighties. She has made it the core of her musical activity and teaching for the past 30 years and more and she has been constantly enlarging and perfecting it until it reached what it can be considered a status of the art loudspeaker orchestra. Definitely one of the best in Europe, together with Beast in Birmingham and the Acousmonium of GRM in France. Useless to say I am extremely happy and honored to get the chance to play on this amazing instrument.
I will perform pieces by other composers, as my personal choice I picked a piece by Daniel Berezan called Offshore. I was assigned a piece by Mathieau Marcoux called Zone and then I will be given two more pieces at random, extracted from a batch of classic compositions.
I think it’s just so interesting that this instrument can be used to reinterpret other’s people music.
In some sense, the interpretation of acousmatic music - being staged, with a performer - represents some sort of step back from the original Schaefferian idea of “music projected out of speakers with no visual element”. As François Bayle explains in a famous interview, the acousmonium was first invented to draw people back to electroacoustic music. In facts, after the ’68 in Paris, electroacoustic music was perceived by audiences as part of the counterculture movement and therefore had lost some of its appeal. Bayle has the great merit of giving this music a new audience who would enjoy the performative aspect of acousmatic concerts and attend the events.
On the 23rd of November was I also invited to perform my piece Scie Luminosissime which I now consider my best summer hit at the celebrations for the 25 years of Notam: the Norwegian centre for technology in music and arts.
My music was performed together with pieces and performances by Stian Westerhus, Mariam Gviniashvili, Gyrid Kallestad, Ernst Van Der Loo, Hilde Marie Holsen and others.
Notam has been active for years supporting artists and their multimedia projects, as well as offering mixing and mastering services, implementing new sound technologies and bringing facilities - such as their 3D audio studio - at everyone’s disposal. A truly great resource that has an outstanding value and contributes enormously to the artistic life of the town.
Being invited to such an event was indeed a great pleasure for me.
From the 10th to the 17th of November I’ve been in Stockholm where I did a residency at EMS, the famous Elektronmusikstudion started in 1964 which hosts a number of facilities and technologies put at disposal for free to electronic musicians and composers applying for residencies and studio hours.
EMS is mostly famous for their two Buchla systems and a massive Serge modular synthesizer, but in the latest years the profile of the institution evolved and started including spatial audio technologies - especially for ambisonics - putting up two 15.1 loudspeaker domes. This evolution happens in synergy with the profile of the local music academy where the presence of Bill Brunson and Gerhard Eckel have contributed to the development of an interest in this direction.
For my week at EMS I had very specific plans.
- Mixing and finding a title for a new stereo piece that I used to call “gli acini della rabbia” - a title that didn’t satisfy me anymore
- Working on a new piece in ambisonics, which I had started sketching in stereo but I wanted to enlarge.
For the first one I mostly used studio 7 due to its special combination of near field monitors Genelec One and the special set of handmade speakers built in the seventies for that room. I could have used studio 3, which has a way more powerful stereo system and I actually used for the final listening session, but I had the feeling that studio 7 would have fitted my purpose perfectly especially due to the smaller size and the more engrossed feel.
The mix I ended up with I s a bit more compact and powerful but also yields an overall sense of cloudy reminiscence that floats in the air. This last feature I like a lot and it gave me the inspiration for the title of the piece:
Strade fatte a memoria. A song about holding hands and walking familiar places.
The second piece is still pretty much a work in progress but by now I have a 15 minutes ambisonically spatialized structure which brings me in another direction from the one I’ve been pursuing until now. I won’t say this piece is drone-inspired, but surely it features some longer forms. I take advantage of stasis, the materials have the chance to stay and breath more, develop their full potential before I manipulate them.
There isn’t many gestures, ruptures, dramatic cuts, true. But I feel there is certain poetry in this subtlety, in not flexing my sonic muscles.
I got as far as I could with these two pieces for now, any other work to be done on them would not be fruitful at this stage, but I still had some days left.
I decided to invest them getting back to an old piece of mine called Delta Scuti. A 34 minutes loop based beast that I had listened again and seemed to me that it was done way below the technical skills I have today.
I’ve had the idea or reworking it for a pretty long while and I thought that using tape would have been a nice option. Just I didn’t have the tools to do it. At EMS I got my hands on a pretty amazing STUDER reel to reel tape recorder which I used for this purpose.
At the end of the two days I had recorded and reworked all the materials I wanted to use, I now need to assemble them into a new piece.
The Making Waves project has officially started and our first week in Tbilisi was packed with activities!
I realized that my original plan of focusing on theory and ideas about how to compose using field recordings was successful only to a certain extent and drifting over a more practice based approach might have been more rewarding for both me and the students involved in the project. So after a long listening session in which I showed them old and new works which I considered relevant for the discourse about space (this session featured pieces by Barry Truax, Luc Ferrari, but also more more recent ones by Jana Winderen, Eric La Casa and Akio Suzuki) we took our recording gear and open ears and went out, in the field, testing our technological hearing.
The response was very positive. I realized that I might have spent hours describing the perceptual difference when recording with an A-B mic setup or a French pair, but explaining while actually hearing had proven to be a much more better approach.
In the field we could discuss the concepts of foreground and background, analyze the surrounding sound environment using Murray Schafer categories, talk about hi-fi and lo-fi soundscapes (a concept I don’t radically agree with but it’s always important to mention) and introduce the ideas of Geophonies, Biophonies and Antrophonies.
We also had time to listen to some of the student’s work and discuss it individually.
I was very surprised by the freshness of the compositions and the music I’ve listened. The young composers I’ve met come from the most diverse backgrounds and surely have different goals role-models for the music they make, they probably have listened to electroacoustic music marginally and they don’t have a clear idea about the development of technologies and the music associated to them, nor they have ever tried to geographically map tendencies and waves in the contemporary music field, but this for of unawareness affords another approach to experimentation, less systematic, with less footprints to follow, which I’ve enjoyed a lot.
I believe that the festival we will organize in April is gonna be a success! :)
Having the chance to actually explain to an audience all the things I’ve been learning in the past months and years is being very helpful to sediment these skills and knowledge and I feel I know more and I am more curious to research new things.
Summer was over but before going back to Oslo I went to Koster, an tiny island in the Swedish side of Kattegat, in company of Harriett Ohlsson, a Swedish singer and multi-instrumentalist, an improvisor with a pop background with whom I have had a long and deep connection and a honest friendship for years.
We don’t really met too often but it’s always beautiful and very insightful to meet her, she really manages to let a lot of hidden thoughts outside of me and to make me realize where am I at. I can be totally open and never hide who I am, or pretend to be something more than myself. I can be a child and it will be fine. People like this are very rare and I am very grateful that I’ve met her on my path.
Together with us there was her husband, Jesper Torsson, a director and video maker with a passion for costumes. An adult child with a very special wisdom.
The three of us worked on a project related to a pop album she is making. In the past, me and Harriet have worked to some special form of improvisation, in which we worked with open songs, scrambled lyrics and rags of chords to generate what we would call a form of liquid or extemporary songwriting.
We would meet about once a year or or more either in Napoli or Gothenburg and work for some days on our instruments and new ideas to put up a show. We often also included other musicians: in Gothenburg we had Lisen Rylander-Löve playing with us, in Napoli Jonathan Maurano and Michele De Finis. People who always managed to push the balance of our performances in unexpected direction and got us out of our comfort zone.
This time in Koster it was very different though, we had a fixed media song to arrange and a splendid landscape to work with. We explored it, looked for places to do ambient and voice recordings, swam in the ocean, met the locals, and I had all the time and the tranquillity to design the electronic parts of the song. It was a true pop song in the end, a bit diverse from regular pop but stil pop. I had never worked on such a thing before and I found it quite interesting. It tickled some other modes of listening and thinking which I am sure will prove to be useful at some point.
As soon as I came back to Oslo I started working to a new piece. A longer form ambisonics piece made with field recordings done along the summer, it’s very demanding due to a progressive but radical shift in my workflow, but the results seem very promising so far.
I decided to let the materials breath more, stay, linger. Working with stasis has never been an option but it’s a path I’d like to try for once and see where it takes me. Basically, I decided that I would embrace a phenomenological approach in my composition, selecting more carefully the interesting bits of my recordings and then enhancing their qualities rather than building these moments.
I think the small field recording workshop with had with Prof. Barrett and some of the conversations I had with our new Erasmus exchange student from USA, Will Bertrand, were really inspiring in that sense. I am becoming much more acquainted with field work and learning to wait.
Before I used my recorder as an instant camera, capturing short snaps of things I liked, quickly, always ready with good reflex. I still like this approach which I find very useful to keep. But this cannot be the only method I use. I need to learn how to be more patient and wait for the right occasions with some planning ahead and clear intentions.
Even though school was over, this summer provided a lot of insights and projects to care about.
The duo I have with Davide Palmentiero, DASPO, has finally a home. It was in facts welcomed very well by a small but seminal Italian label from Turin called Setola di Maiale which decided to publish it.
It’s a very small edition, limited to 300 copies, but that we are designing with extreme care. The graphic project was commissioned by an amazing photographer from southern Italy called Giovanni Linguiti and for the master we chose to work with a young but talented engineer called Riccardo Martinelli. This choice, to collaborate with a young freelancer instead of sending our record to a big studio, was mostly aimed to establish a good personal relationship with someone that could work seriously and exclusively on our work providing more than just a couple of mastering versions, but really nail the sound we wanted to achieve. Riccardo has been extremely successful in this, giving us a product that completely satisfied our requests, being big and fat enough for casual, home listening but not hyper-squashed into a flat dynamic-less wave.
Samenreis is done and almost ready to be printed.
On the wave of excitement for this project, me and Davide have been invited to play in the prestigious Academia Chigiana of Siena for an event called Current Shape, on the 31th of August, where we shared the stage with Kassel Jaeger, a musician that I consider a key figure in nowadays electroacoustic music especially for how he manages to be very relevant in terms of aesthetic research but also musically accessible to outsiders. Kassel Jaeger - AKA François Bonnet - is also the director of GRM, one of the institutions I was considering for my internship, and I was extremely lucky to get to meet him and talk about my proposal.
When he perceived my personal position towards electroacoustic music, the chances for me to get a spot there seemed to become more concrete and he told me to write him soon to define that a bit better.
The concert was very successful - sold out - and I was extremely satisfied of how me and Davide played, keeping very high levels of tension and exploring dynamics in a very unusual way, with great control, employing both pianissimo and fortissimo and playing a lot with speed to keep everything various and constantly in motion. We got a lot of compliments and positive comments, I’ve rarely been that happy for a concert I played. I must say that the synergy me and Davide achieve on stage, despite the personal differences - both have very strong positions about a lot of things - and musical tastes, is almost total and always gives convincing results which are becoming more and more mature with time. I really hope we will get to play more when our album is out, because I have the feeling that we can hit very high level in terms of performing ability.
As an instrument I asked Bàlint Làczko to have a look at my previous Max MSP patch that I used for the live-set I played in Bergen. I was afraid that my patch was a bit too CPU consuming and also I wanted to find a solution to dynamically choose in between sound libraries to adapt my set to different situations.
I reflected on the fact that solo improvisation is more liked to the idea of extemporary composition and is therefore often liked to a - mental - score, a track to follow and therefore much more controlled. When I improvise in groups, might they be duos, trios or big ensembles, my set requires a higher versatility in terms of behaviors and materials. Expanding it, not in the functioning but in the capabilities was a necessity. So I looked again into it, designing some additional modules and reworking it with mc. objects.
When Bàlint looked at my patch he was horrified: my patching skills are equivalent to those of a caveman. The ideas are there but they are really poorly implemented, and he was very very kind to help me out polishing and finding viable solutions to do what I wanted to do without blowing up my machine.
I will never thank him enough.
Of course, my patch still hits 85% as soon as I start it, but it’s much better than before and works glamorously. An issue I have is - I believe - with my audio interface. I never fully trusted Motu ultralite interfaces, I find them very dodgy, but they are now the only solution to carry an 8-out in a half rack. Still I guess that much of the glitching happened when I connected the software to the Audio interface and it works much more smoothly with the internal core audio.
After the concert - at night - I went to a totally empty piazza duomo and witnessed to the incredible comb filtering effect happening in that place.
It was time again to reorganize my thoughts.
I needed to decide what to do after my master was finished. Now that going straight into a PhD wasn’t anymore an option and I needed a bit more time to compose music and be a musician, what could I do to make sure this was done in the best way, in a thrilling environment, surrounded by inspiring people and with outstanding facilities that I couldn’t normally afford?
Once again the European Union came to help. I could apply for a post-master internship program in a studio or university where to work and develop my own projects. Knowing that this project wasn’t geographically limited to Europe but could be extended to the whole world due to Erasmus Mundus, I started looking for possibilities in Montreal, Canada, where I also knew that my academy had some connection. Unfortunately, the school where I wanted to go, where Robert Normandeau is teaching, is a French speaking school where I wouldn’t be accepted if my level of French didn’t match certain requirements. Now, I really like Normandeau’s work and ideas about acousmatic music. He belongs to that wave of french-inspired Canadian composers such as Gilles Gobeil, who have embraced the legacy of extremely relevant figures such as Michel Chion and Francis Dhomont (Normandeau’s PhD dissertation about the Cinéma pour l’oreille is, in this sense, a very interesting paper that remodulates quite many of Chion’s philosophical concepts about sound and vision).
If I couldn’t go there I didn’t want to go to another university so I had two goals, either GRM in Paris, where I could finally work in close contact with THE acousmonium and get in contact with a lot of amazing French composers I love such as Lionel Marchetti, Jerome Noetinger and Eric La Casa, either EMS in Stockholm, a place I had visited briefly and that really tickled my imagination both for the amazing facilities and for the vibrant compositional environment that rose around it and is still very very active.
I tried to get in contact with them but the path to walk is still very long.
In the while time I started working on a new piece for which I commissioned some synthesized material to my friend Bruno Piscitelli. He has been very helpful adjusting the synth parts I’d made and re-recording them with his analog synthesizers. Also he helped me in couple of passages which lacked edge, giving me ideas and suggesting useful solutions. The original material for this piece were arranged already once, about 3 years ago, but they never saw the light. Also the first original structure was pretty basic and only 3 minutes long. Now I’m working on a 8 minutes piece with a higher structural complexity and an insane layering (with more than hundred stereo tracks). Again it is a piece about memory, but this time with a strong sense of rage and the tranquillity that occurs after acceptance of sorrow. I was reading “Poetry as insurgent art” by Lawrence Ferlinghetti while beginning the compositional phase, and the burst of energy that explodes from inside the poet was a greatly inspiring image.
Of course, as always in my work, this first idea changed while exploring the materials, which suggested different possible directions, and everything became more melancholic and reflective. The original title that I had for the piece “Gli Acini della Rabbia” wasn’t quite fitting anymore. But I haven’t changed it yet as honestly don’t have any better idea now.
time to celebrate!
The project proposal about a series of masterclasses at the Tbilisi State Conservatory, that Mariam, Mike and I have presented to the Norwegian Music Academy has been approved.
The project is called Making Waves and will be funded by the Norwegian Music Academy and CEMPE - the Center of Excellence in Music Performance Education - a satellite institution of NMH which has been extremely supportive.
The three of us will travel to Tbilisi three times next year - in October, February and April - to organize workshops and seminars related to music technology - such as compositional techniques and methods - and to arrange an electroacoustic music festival in April in which the Georgian students will participate with compositions and live performances.
The festival will also feature performances and pieces by the three of us and one guest artist from Norway. We wanted to invite someone who had some strong connection with the academy and that was a performer of live electronics and had a cool and innovative aesthetic and quite some international experience, therefore we found two possible names for our candidate. Hilde Marie Holsen and Gyrid Nordal Kaldestad. Luckily for us the selection happened in a natural way and we didn’t really have to choose (it would have been very hard) as Hilde couldn’t join due to her newly discovered pregnancy - congratulations!.
The module I designed for the students in Tbilisi and that I will teach is about field recording, electroacoustic music composition using soundscapes and Sound ecology. I know the students there are pretty new to this topics and I won’t go very deep in details with a lot of names and philosophy. I’d like to try to keep the module very practical and workshop oriented with soundwalks, field recording session, testing microphone set ups for different situations and listening exercises.
I will probably cover the basic of Murray Schafer’s theory and blend it with some concepts of Bernie Krause and Hildegard Westerkamp to get in deeper into analysis and composition. Also I want to eviscerate the reasons and the purposes of this activity and elaborate compositional strategies with the kids.
Another concept I’d like to bring on is the one related to the “third landscape”, as Tbilisi is FULL of such intersections between urban and extra urban environments.
I'm extremely excited for this and very looking forward to begin.
Right after Malmö I took another flight, this time to go to England.
Me and my classmates were invited to attend BEAST Feast, a famous and very prestigious festival of electroacoustic music held in Birmingham, at the University. Four days packed with concerts and conferences, so much music it was very hard to keep up with.
The BEAST (Birmingham ElectroAcoustic Sound Theatre), the system they install each year for the festival, truly deserves its name. It is an extremely complex loudspeaker orchestra featuring over 100 units distributed in space. It was originally meant to perform music in stereo format, as the French acousmonium, but the philosophy behind it is radically different. While the original acousmonium is mostly operating frontally, on stage, and with a strong visual component, as a real orchestra, Jonty Harrison designed BEAST with the idea of developing a more immersive environment. The speakers are therefore placed on a wider plane, enlarging the stereo picture and therefore the listening sweet spot. A radically higher density of speakers hanging from the ceiling produces a very convincing sense of elevation which, used wisely and with the right kind of material, can provide very dramatic gestures over the listener’s head. Also it is a site specific installation: apparently not meant for traveling, the BEAST in its completeness is always installed in the same hall and responds to it in a perfect way.
I must admit that when I first saw that system I really wanted to play on it, but I also guess that pretty much everyone would have the same reaction.
In Birmingham I encountered some known people and a lot of new ones. Especially I met Brona Martin, who I had met before in Oslo, when she came over to give us a masterclass. She was extremely kind and helpful to get me and the others acquainted with the space and the local music environment, orientating and introducing us around, creating connections. Davide Gagliardi, a composer and friend from Italy, based in Graz, was also there and it was very nice to meet him.
Among the interesting moments I experienced at the festival I must definitely mention Robert Mudd’s presentation and concert about a system to do physical models of impossible instruments that I found laying somewhere in between amazing, grotesque, scary and very fascinating.
Also I met Jean-François Denis, who runs a pretty famous electroacoustic music label in Canada called Empreintes DIGITALes, but also is a very funny and interesting person, very down to earth and cool to talk to.
Despite these very nice moments and people, the rest of the festival really didn’t interest me that much, instead I honestly felt very uncomfortable there.
I might perhaps be a bit too critical writing this, but entering that crystalized reality of academic electronic music felt like being trapped inside an Ivory tower. A system totally detached from reality and shaped into a form that I found very unappealing. The more time I spent there - especially after the time spent in Malmö, performing at a festival that belongs to the underground side of experimental electronic music - the more my original idea of doing a PhD in the UK became oppressive and felt like a bad idea.
The worst aspect of all this was the networking frenzy people fell into. Students and scholars were raving, obsessively trying to spot, detect and talk to the “relevant” people. Impolitely enough, they wouldn’t be afraid of cutting a conversation with you if someone important was passing by.
All this was very disappointing and I got anxious. I was completely out of place.
Coupe of days later, in London, I was tired for all the doubts overwhelmingly coming to my mind. I felt very insecure and I was probably surrounded by too many people, so I entered the toilet of a bar and fainted.