In November I could spend my time sedimenting a bit of the overwhelming amount of information I’ve gathered in the first two months.
My trip to Napoli at the beginning of the month and my final master dissertation for my first MA in Acousmatic Music Composition acted as a break point between what I had left behind and the future to come and shape. The end result was very positive and it felt very good to celebrate it with all the people who have always supported me and with whom I’ve been sharing so many projects and thoughts.
Back in Oslo I had to work for upcoming very important appointments. At the end of the month, with the whole class, I was invited to take place SPACE 2019, a conference about spatial audio that took place at KMH in Stockholm.
There students from the Norges Musikkhøgskole, the KMH and the IEM in Graz gathered with their professor to attend a series of lectures and concerts and confront their works.
For that occasion I revised my Ambisonic version of Scie Luminosissime that I had presented earlier for the concert with Karlheinz Essl and included elevation to make it work on the dome they have at KMH.
What I found most interesting about that week were the discussions we had with Gerhard Eckel about the political status of acousmatic music (and especially spatial music) in our society and the possibility of it being a very elitist experience. What is the artist role in this sense? What technological and aesthetic solutions can we adopt to make it more available? Is it actually right to think that the accessibility of our music is just a matter of propaedeutics or is it actually true that our aesthetic niche has some solipsistic elements inbuilt?
Also I appreciated my private talk with Daniel Mayer with whom I could talk a lot about my personal aesthetic in acousmatic music and analyse strengths and weaknesses.
I was very happy about the concert in Stockholm. The rehearsal session with Natasha Barrett where we tested our pieces before and after applying a distance compensation algorithm in our decoders in Max MSP was a real revelation. It felt like wearing glasses for the first time in the morning when all the contours of the single objects get out of their blur and become solid and defined.
I’ve never listened to any of my pieces sounding as good as it did in that room. I think that is partially because of the piece I composed is very suitable for ambisonic diffusion but lots of it is due to our technical adjustments.
We left Stockholm with the idea of actually trying to repeat such experience in some different place in the years to come. I strongly hope this is going to happen.
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.
In March I had received a call by my friend and colleague Mads Kjeldgaard. He is an intern at Notam, the Norwegian center for development and creative use of technology in music and the arts, where he runs a meet up about Supercollider and makes awesome music with it. He was involving me in a project supported by Notam and the Inter Art Center in Malmö, offering us a space to do a sound diffusion concert at the Intonal festival. We presented the idea of performing a selection of pieces by young Oslo-based acousmatic music composers made between 2017 and 2019.
The composers we featured in our concert were Mariam Gviniashvili, Juhani Silvola, Ernst Van Der Loo, Mads Kjeldgaard, Hilde Marie Holsen, Balint Lazcko, Ulf Holbrook and myself.
Our aim with this selection was to show how multi-faceted, international and various is the acousmatic music environment in Oslo, made by people with many different backgrounds and stories that work together to create new and beautiful things. A small but radical environment with lots of potential and a strong motivation.
The system we were given had 32 channels, each controlling one individual speaker. There was an 8-speaker ring, a main stereo pair, several "effect" speakers, such as tiny clusters and solo speakers, four other hanging from the ceiling. It was not a huge system but also the room wasn't big, yet it afforded quite many possibilities and was cleverly set up.
Before the concert we did all the required EQ-ing to differentiate the sound quality of the speakers even more and create more dramatic changes.
We stayed in Malmö for five days, to attend the entire festival and to rehearse and perform. In that occasion I had the chance to meet Lisa Stenberg, who was about to start working at EMS in Stockholm, with whom I had some very nice conversations and exchanged a lot of thoughts and ideas.
The things she told me about EMS got me very interested in it, and I start wondering whether it could be an option to visit it for a residency or something more.
Two other very interesting people I met in Malmö were Alessandro Perini and Dante Tanzi. Alessandro is a composer of instrumental and electronic music based in Malmö with whom I had a great conversation about music and the academia and whose positions I found extremely interesting and enlightening. Dante is a lovely old man, who fell in love with acousmatic music and built his own acousmonium in Milan, the Audior. He is an expert performer, very accurate and attentive. He played a carte blanche concert that was absolutely amazing. He was not supposed to attend my concert the day after, because he had his return flight, but (luckily or unluckily) it was canceled due to a strike and he stayed one more day. He had a lot of interesting comments about my performance and gave me some good tips. I hope I will have the chance to play on his system once.
April was again a time for trips and musical activity.
At the beginning of the month I was invited together with Mariam Gviniashvili to play a concert in Bergen, at Lydgalleriet. The concert series is called Freaky Avantgarde and is connected to the blue rinse festival organized by Craig Wells and Tijs Ham, two researchers at UiB.
Tijs designed a specific quadriphonic set-up for that concert, consisting of one pillar of speakers pointing in four directions and two subs. For the occasion I had designed a multichannel Max MSP patch musically based on my piece Scie Luminosissime which allowed me to improvise around the structure of the piece for as long as I wanted. I was very nervous because it was the first time I was the second time I was playing a solo set with my laptop and the first time in Napoli, about one year before, went really bad. I almost fainted on stage due to a panic attack.
This time I was able to concentrate much better and I played a set that to me felt very well organized and paced when I listened back to it. There is still a lot to improve, but I feel that I am on the right track.
The patch I made, had been organized based on the controller I was going to use, a Novation Launch Control XL.
This controller resembles an 8ch mixer where each channel has its own fader, three knobs and two buttons. This way i divided the patch in 8 sections, each section was dedicated to a different class of sounds that allowed me to create deep polyphonies of timbres and behaviors.
The first two "Scie" and "Bass" were used with the same kinds of materials in two different frequency ranges, textural materials used to create backgrounds which could become prominent due to very high frequency sweeps I included.
"Gestz" were gestures, hits and dramatic movements.
"Envs" were heavily enveloped sounds, like short textures slowly becoming prominent and then disappearing.
"Bbls" were bubbling granulated sounds
"Field" were field recorded materials to be used as backgrounds or - in case I chose the heavily processed and convoluted ones - they could function as tonal materials.
"Hana" is a very complex module which randomly produces pentatonic arpeggios or clusters. It is attached to an instance of Native Instrument Massive to include cheesy rave sounds which I really love and use a lot.
"cracks" are crackles and broken noise materials. They are spatialised with Spat5 and I can change the source position randomly, generating motions, they are of a different nature and thanks to the random but still predictable movement patterns they create beautiful streams of concrete grains that are very effective.
For those interested in the musical outcome of the concert, there is a quite long excerpt of the concert here at this link: https://youtu.be/XpCRGJk-6zE
After I went to Italy for Easter and my sister’s birthday, then to Malmö.
After all the previous activity in January and February, March has been a month of resting and reflection.
Partially due to school, I used this weeks to attend complementary seminars and classes and to make sure I’d pass the year, but also due to the fact that I really needed some time to read and think.
It was around this time I decided to commit myself to study soundscapes in a deeper way and to investigate the connections with other fields of study such as architecture, sociology and anthropology. I tried to design a map with books I read and others I wanted to read and I started purchasing them to organize my personal library dedicated to these studies.
Some of them I already knew, some others I added later, when I discovered them, but I keep this list updated the more I find and the more I read.
R. Murray Schafer - The tuning of the world
Barry Truax - Acoustic Communication
Gernot Böhme - The Aesthetic of Atmospheres
Jean-Luc Nancy - All’Ascolto (Listening)
David Monacchi - L’arca dei Suoni Originari (The Ark of Primary Sounds)
Arne Næss - Ecology, Community and Lifestyle
Gaston Bachelard - La Poetica dello Spazio (The Poetics of Space)
Tim Ingold - The Perception of Environment
Francesco Bergamo - Il disegno del paesaggio sonoro (The Design of Soundscape)
Gilles Clément - Manifesto del terzo paesaggio (The Third Landscape Manifesto)
Carlo Serra - La Rappresentazione fra Spazio Musicale e Paesaggio Sonoro (Representation in between Musical Space and Soundscape)
AA/VV - Ecologia della Musica: Saggi sul Paesaggio Sonoro (Music Ecology - Essays about Soundscape)
Leandro Pisano - Nuove Geografie del Suono (New Geographies of Sound)
Steven Feld - Sound and Sentiment
R. Murray Schafer - 100 Exercises in Listening and Music-Making
Jacques Attali - Rumori: Saggio sull’Economia Politica della Musica (Noise: The Political Economy of Music)
To this list I added a series of other books that are not completely related to sound and space but refer to different practices that I found relevant in my studies and explore diverse artistic practices and topics such as silence, emptiness and light linking them to my personal practice.
Giangiorgio Pasqualotto - L’Estetica del Vuoto (The aesthetic of Emptiness)
Carlos Marti Aris - Silenzi Eloquenti (Eloquent Silences)
Jun’ichiro Tanizaki - Libro D’ombra (In praise of Shadows)
Marc Augè - Non Luoghi (Non-places)
Peter Zumthor - Atmosfere: Ambienti architettonici. Le cose che ci circondano (Atmospheres: Architectural Environments, Surrounding Objects.)
Alex Stewart - The Ethnographer’s Method
Gilles Deleuze - Cos’è un Dispositivo? (What is a Dispositif?)
Pauline Oliveros - Deep Listening
Also I collected a series of articles and writings about soundscapes that I found interesting:
Tim Ingold - Against Soundscape
Hildegard Westerkamp - Linking Soundscape Composition and Acoustic Ecology
Bernie Krause - The Niche Hypotesis
Gregg Wagstaff - What is Acoustic Ecology’s Ecology (only found in Italian)
David Rothenberg - The musical and the Natural: Expressing Analogies
Steven Feld - Ethnomusicology and Eco-muse-ecology. Reading R. Murray Schafer in the Papua New Guinea Rainforest.
M. A. Harley - Notes on Music Ecology: As a new research Paradigm
I will keep this list updated for times to come and use it as a reference for my further studies.
The end of February was also the time I went to Tbilisi for the first time.
I was invited by Mariam Gviniashvili to join a project together with Mike McCormick in which we would present our master program to the students of the Tbilisi State Conservatory, giving a series of lectures that included both technical, aesthetic and artistic knowledge, and more practical instructions about funding opportunities, residencies and exchange opportunities in Europe.
It’s very hard to sum up what this week has been. First of all I found the idea of giving a talk a very thrilling opportunity and I discovered that not only I really enjoy to explain things, but also the need to organize my thoughts to then explain different concepts really helps me to solidify my own knowledge.
There I had two talks, one was about the conducting language we developed with OEOAS and was meant to introduce the students to free improvisation, a practice that not many of them had experienced before. The other was about the stereo format and different panning techniques that can be used in production to work with space in an interesting way. Tips and tricks that are part of my own practice and that I wanted to share.
Also I provide a reading and listening list full of musical examples of electroacoustic music.
At the end of the week, we organized two concerts. The first one was a fixed media ambisonics concerts that we arranged with an 8-speaker ring in one of the halls inside the conservatoire, the second was in a small local club called Zoestan where we played different live setups.
Being for the first time so far away from home, in an environment where no one knew me (and also thanks to Mako who almost forced me to do so) I decided to play my first solo improv-set. The idea of playing alone on a stage would usually give me unbearable anxiety and make me panic, but that time I managed and I used my moog, microphones and found objects on a guitar amp to play 15 minutes of electric mayhem.
But Tbilisi wasn’t just that, it was also an encounter with a completely different culture and lifestyle which is absolutely different from the European standards, and yet has a lot in common with southern Italy. The only difference is in projection, you can really see that despite all problems, corruption, the ghost of war and the strength of the Russian Army constantly menacing an invasion, it is a country in development. A country that tries to stand on their own legs, to make it, both economically and culturally, to grow, and it does it with an outstanding strength.
Sure, western culture penetrated that society in a real violent way and it’s obvious that globalized capitalism will just be another form of exploitation. Big brands are opening shops on the main avenues, while the narrow streets around the corner are still half demolished and the areas outside the town center are completely degraded. But there is growth and hopefully the strong Georgian cultural identity will prevent total assimilation. Compared to that, Italy looks more like it has begun the process of decay which will bring my country to collapse, despite how people idealizes it.
I’m really looking forward to go there again.
The very last day of January I left Oslo again to go back to Napoli. This trip was for a very noble cause, I participated to the recording of the first album of OEOAS (Orchestra Elettroacustica Officina Arti Soniche).
OEOAS is a huge ensemble started by Elio Martusciello with a small group of conservatory students, including myself, in 2014.
At the beginning we were just a handful, but the project encountered a positive response in the local music scene and soon after we became over a hundred. By now, about 250 musicians have played with OEOAS, in different occasions. Our biggest performance featured 110 musicians on stage in an extemporary composition conducted by Alvin Curran.
The recordings were organized and curated by Antonio Raia and Renato Fiorito, I played percussions and a drum set in different formations. I haven’t really played much drums in an impro setting, but what I do is often inspired by musicians such as Ingar Zach, Lê Quan Ninh and Seijiro Murayama.
Back In Oslo I played stereo diffusion for my second time at a concert we organized in occasion of the masterclass of Dániel Péter Biró. For that concert I decided to play a old classic by Luciano Berio: Thema, Omaggio a Joyce and the new piece I composed for Luca Sguera.
I had a tutorial with Prof. Barrett right before the concert, she absolutely demolished my piece, which she didn’t like AT ALL both in terms of structure and in terms of sounds implied. She even asked me not to include it in my portfolio.
That got me extremely nervous and I played an awful concert, full of mistakes led by distraction. I was away in my thoughts and I couldn’t manage to focus. I recognize that for the standards of what is expected by a piece of acousmatic music inside the academia, that piece isn’t truly orthodox. I sometimes take unpopular choices, deliberately including ugliness in my pieces, elements that clash with the structure, that feel out of place, but I often find all this very interesting and it’s what I like in the music of artists such as Graham Lambkin.
Anyways, I was very confused after that performance, which left me a bit disappointed about myself and my work. Still I considered that piece finished and functional to what I was going to use it for, therefore I sent it in for mastering.
I might rework it into something else for my master exam, but also maybe I won’t.
The year started with a very nice experience:
Davide Palmentiero, Massimo Varchione, Claudio Panariello and I locked ourself in a house in a remote town on the sea shore of Cilento to record an album. There we spent three days recording improvisations and going around doing field recordings and performing acts in the empty village.
The piece that will come out of this work will not be acousmatic music, properly recomposed into fixed forms, but more some sort of documentation of our performative nature that we carried out through the years we have been playing together.
I also started working on a new piece. An Italian pianist from Milan called [Luca Sguera] commissioned me a remix of a free jazz piece that he composed for his quartet and provided me with materials to work with. I completely destroyed the piece, removing the drums and substituting the percussive sounds with fireworks recorded on New Year’s eve. Also I altered the interplay between the instruments inserting field recorded materials and playing counterpoints with it. A piano chord, the saxophone doing some extended technique, a car… all woven together in a constant sensual pacing that to me sounded very tempting and luxurious.
December has been a month of developing and traveling.
I started looking back at the work done in the first months using ambisonics, at the first theoretical notions and the way I applied them to make my first piece Scie Luminosissime, in order to start developing a method, a workflow. So I decided to try the same approach to another piece of mine, originally composed in stereo but of a completely different kind: Chiese Calura e Ossa. I composed this piece for my admission exam, so it was relatively new, and it is a piece that relies heavily on field recorded materials that I took during a trip in Basilicata. That place features very peculiar landscapes, extremely diverse environments, and is socially devastated by an awful administration that leads to a progressive desertification and mass migration, I tried to capture all this with my microphones, recording with very high gain all the micro-activity on the soil and in the nature, the unseen life.
I joined these concepts together with some reflections by Craig Wells and we participated to the first Audio Paper Symposium at IAC in Malmö. We presented our works and hoped that our reflections could have been expressed by the sounds themselves without the aid of additional voice overs and - in our opinion unnecessary - words. Unfortunately the local commission didn’t quite agree with our perspective, and a big discussion about the format aroused.
I must say that despite being criticized, I was really happy that we got to talk and argue about formats and research practices because that brought a lot of other ideas to my mind and I think that I managed to give some personal inputs for further developments of this new format. Also that experience was very valuable for other reasons too, I got to meet a lot of very interesting researchers and musicians that share my path and I hope I will meet again in the future.
Back in Oslo I attended a workshop held by EAU about stereo sound diffusion which also featured a final concert. There I played the stereo version of Chiese Calura e Ossa. It was my first ever stereo diffusion experience and I liked it a lot. I had played with many speakers before, but only multichannel formats (Octophony, WFS, Ambisonics), and playing “old school” diffusion was a totally different experience, where interpretation played an incredibly important role.
I must say that I found my background as an improvisor very useful in that occasion because that experience got me used to listen in a different way and to learn how to quickly respond to real time stimuli. Having a score in addition provides some sort of safety, and being able to always predict what comes next can be useful to plan ahead and develop a performance plan that can be perfected with time.
Then Christmas came, as always I spent it in Italy. There I got the chance to play a concert with two fellow musicians from Apulia: Walter Forestiere and Giovanni Cristino. They are two incredibly interesting improvisers playing respectively drums and keyboards, there I played my little moog with microphones and rubber balloons, what came out was a very intense set in which I felt like excavating my inner body and pouring out melted physicality, muscular and nervous energy that in the past months spent as a composer I didn’t manage to let out.
We had a guest professor at school: Prof. Karlheinz Essl, who gave us presentations about his use of Max MSP in a live electronic context. His abstractions proved to be very helpful and interesting tools to introduce chance in a workflow and I’ve slowly started including them in my own patching for live electronics that is something I’m in the process of rediscovering.
His stay ended up with a concert where I presented my first piece in Ambisonics. The piece is called Scie Luminosissime and is inspired by a poem written by the Italian contemporary poet Mariangela Gualtieri. It is also a personal homage to Mike Cooper and it has proven to be a very lucky piece.
My workflow for developing an Ambisonic version of that piece was basically to treat sounds sharing common sources as parts of the same soundfield and then overlapping those soundfields to create the overall background image of the piece. This is what I call “painting the surface of the sphere”, creating the setting.
For materials that were more muscular I mimicked proximity and distance effects with the use of gain and filtering so that the gestures wouldn’t appear only as they were projected on the speaker dome but I could create an illusion of the movement beyond the xyz planes.
I was quite satisfied with the piece but that was the opportunity for me to actually find out ways to improve it and to make it sound more solid.
On the 13th of October I had the opportunity to meet Annette Vande Gorne. She was invited at Notam to give a presentation about practical editing with tape and more old-school compositional techniques from the early GRM era. The technical aspects of the workshop were only relatively interesting as I have never established any personal relation with working with tape and the what people call “a warm analog sound” has never been part of my aesthetic either.
But the stories and the anecdotes she told us felt like a precious journey into the past, meeting those people who invented acousmatic music and whose lives and discoveries I felt legendary.
Due to the time that divides us, as people that are just approaching to this subject from those early pioneers, being long enough to actually make their stories appear as something historical but also not being long enough to afford proper philological studies, the perception I have of the early GRM days is extremely fragmented and filling the gaps that would make the timeline clearer and more defined has proven to be a very hard task. In this sense the encounter with Annette was extremely valuable and added some pieces to the puzzle, making the whole picture a bit more complete
October was also a very important milestone for a duo project I’ve been having with my friend and colleague Davide Palmentiero, as we finished mixing our first album: Samenreis.
This album that was composed in Napoli and whose materials were recorded in the Netherlands during our Erasmus exchange, represents our first attempt to approach contemporary music from a commercial standpoint and our try to conceive a product that can be conveyed as a complex and experimental piece of music that is yet detached from the academy and could hit different environments.