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.