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activities - workshop / meeting/ contests - cd call - 2nd edition

2nd edition

CD Call 2nd edition
"Punti di Ascolto"

electroacoustic music works

The CD includes the following works

1. Massimo Carlentini (1966) riversi Mondi diversi (2003)
for violin and electronics (11’09”)
Diego Conti violin
Production: Edison Studio - Rome

2. Marco Marinoni (1974) WAHN (2005)
for piano and electronics (7’24”)
Marco Marinoni piano
Production: composer’s studio.
Live electronics project by Davide Tiso

3. Massimo Mariani (1960) Six-o-four (2003)
for 8 channel tape and prerecorded voice (stereo version) (9'39")
Liliana Bancolini voice
Production: Sonic Studio - Simon Fraser University, Vancouver (Canada)

4. Franco Degrassi (1958) Luminal (2003)
for tape (7'45")
Production: composer’s studio

5.Tommaso Perego (1975) Les jeux sont faits (2005)
for violin and Max/MSP software (6'00")
Eloisa Manera violin
Production: Recorded, mixed and mastered at composer's studio, Milan

6. Mario Bajardi (1976) Bjm Piano Studio (2003)
for tape (8’41”)
Production: composer’s studio

 7. Giancarlo Turaccio (1967) Trisì (2004)
for alto sax, tenor-bass trombone and electronic sounds (10’37”)
Production: recorded live on 14 May 2004 at “S. Pietro a Majella” Conservatory of Naples
on the context of  "I Venerdì Musicali" concert series

CD produced by Federazione CEMAT with the support of Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali - Direzione Generale dello Spettacolo dal vivo. Master realised at Federazione CEMAT in collaboration with Auditorium Edizioni - Milan
Coordinators: Fabio Cifariello Ciardi, Gianni Trovalusci
Mastering and Cd Rom production: Carlo Di Giugno
Graphics: Elena Marelli
Texts editing: Francesca Aragno
Translations: Anne Penney Ricotti, Salvatore Marra
All tracks included in this CD were recorded by the composers in their private studios or in the above mentioned production Centres.
Special thanks to: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Elio Menzione  (vicedirector for Cultural Promotion and Cooperation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs), Staff of the Italian Contemporary Art Collection at "Farnesina", prof. Maurizio Calvesi, Omar Galliani.

The voice of I
I wonder what drove old Heinrich Besseler, the pedantic and slightly boring musicologist, to write – in the middle of the horrible 1970s – his Das musikalische Hören der Neuzeit (Listening to Music in the Modern Age), a history of music written from the point of view of those who only have ears to hear. It was a thin and unpretentious book, but it cleared the way from all the other histories of music written from the point of view of composers or, at best, of musicians. It must be admitted that this booklet gave a slap in the face to old fogey historians, analysts with their eye glued to the magnifying glass and critics peering through their pince-nez. Especially because Besseler was not at all interested in the “material” data that provides so much excitement to sociologists of music. His sources were the classic sources of the bygone Wissenschaftmusik: manuscripts, autographed copies, original editions. In other words notated music, and not account books, lease contracts or shopping lists. After carefully studying the sources (and nothing else), Besseler came to the surprising conclusion that every epoch, every great cultural era, has its own music listening model, based on radically different “paradigms”. Until the era of the Counter Reformation, for example, the prevailing model was “textual”, that is, based on the meaning of an extra-musical text; on the other hand during the 17th century the “formal” model dominated, calling the listener to decipher a musical form that existed separately from the text. Everything changed during the Enlightenment, with the emergence of the paradigm of “synthesis”, a model of listening based on the grasp of wide-ranging and extensive formal units; finally, the great Romantic century was crossed like a river by the “passive listening” model, following which the listener confidently gave in to the indistinct flow of sound and its enchanting power.
Can this be “sociological bullshit” – as Massimo Mila said after his (perhaps not very thorough) reading of Adorno’s Philosophy of Modern Music? Well, it’s possible. But Besseler’s method is rigorous and his conclusions highly original. The deepest regret I have about this book is, rather, that old Besseler stopped right before getting to the good part, on the threshold of the 20th century, without even wondering if it possessed its own “listening model”, different from those practiced during the previous centuries. This is a dead serious question that will (maybe) find a serious answer in the future. Meanwhile I can attempt to give a light-hearted answer, just for fun. To do this, however, I would like to call as a witness (without his knowledge) another music scholar, a great deal younger and less boring than his German colleague: Mario Baroni, a musicologist with a clear pedagogical bent, who recently published a very atypical book gathering the results of the “listening experiments” he inflicted on his students, who acted as volunteer guinea-pigs. The book is entitled L’orecchio intelligente (The Intelligent Ear) and, more importantly, subtitled Guida all’ascolto delle musiche non familiari (Guide for Listening to Unfamiliar Music). And here comes a sudden brainstorm: for reasons that for the moment are best intuited than explained, I realize that all 20th-century musics, whether symbolist or dodecaphonic, expressionist or serial, neoclassical or electro-acoustic, might always be – because of their inherent nature of “not easily identifiable objects” – “unfamiliar”. They also seem destined to remain so, even at the second, third or nth hearing. If we consider this brainwave well-grounded (there would be plenty to discuss, but not here and now) the doubt remains: do the criteria for listening to “familiar” music apply also to “unfamiliar” music? My first reaction would be to say no. On the contrary, I would venture to say that listening to “unfamiliar” music requires a “protocol” based on completely different, perhaps less scientific and more intuitive categories. But which?
Normally, when we set out to listen to known music (it doesn’t matter whether it’s familiar to the individual or the collective), we tend to concentrate on standard and predictable parameters: rhythm, tone color, form, melody, harmony, depending on our individual knowledge and skill. But when we listen or hear unknown music (unknown because it was either never performed or never heard before) our attention is usually drawn to apparently marginal or peripheral elements: for example its speed or slowness, or the density of sonic events in a unit of time, or the relation between empty and full. All these elements fully belong to the “stuff of which sounds are made”, but are hardly among the parameters analysts usually take into consideration. The issue is that unfamiliar music, even when it derives from an unmistakably written source, to our “virgin” ears always has a sort of  “oral statute” that makes it much more similar to non-written music than to familiar music. Nobody, thank Heavens, has yet compiled a “protocol for listening to unfamiliar music” and therefore the list of entries is still open and far from being complete. Yet the release of this new Call provides a precious opportunity for us to test our listening imagination and our capacity to open ourselves to new and still not experimented perceptual categories through sound. After all, electro-acoustic music has a problematic relation with notation and possesses a sort of latent and implicit “orality”, which makes it a special and extreme case of “unfamiliarity”. And it is almost irresistible to approach it declining the subject “I” rather than the object “you”.
Massimo Carlentini’s composition riversi Mondi diversi, reveals for example the existence of a small series of perceptual couples that are very frequent in spontaneous listening strategies. From the very first sequences I hear sounds that are proximate, devoid of any space separating them. It’s thus impossible to organize any kind of articulation of the sound discourse. My attention in fact shifts immediately from the dichotomy contiguous/separate to the dichotomy high-pitched/low-pitched: I am struck by a constant ostinato of granular sounds set against the shrieking scream of an “electric” string that almost seems to reproduce the affected gesture of a rock guitar. The topological contrast is even too elementary, almost brutal, and in fact a “third” uneasily defined element appears: a sort of cloud of dust in which I seem to distinguish something similar to a series of fake radio impulses. The “perturbing” (Freud defines it “an uncommon, new, unfamiliar reality”, and the definition is quite fitting in this context) leads to a new dichotomy: that of presence/absence. On the “sound screen” I now perceive the noise of a string being struck and pulled, a close, cumbersome presence; at the same time I intuit in the distance the existence of a level sound surface, flat with the exception of little potholes and creases of corrugated earth. As distances and presences become well defined, another sound breaks into the scene, a curiously “realistic” sound recalling solid objects falling to pieces. This, however, is just a newly perturbing prelude to the shock of an enormous, inconceivable silence beyond which the pounding ostinato of the electric string appears once again, but this time reduced to its pure and unadulterated substance.
     The piece by Marco Marinoni, Wahn, also seems to be generated by the “acoustic” contrast between proximity and separateness, but here the emphasis is placed from the onset on the distance between sound events rather than on their proximity. If I don’t let the phonic violence of the introduction “seduce” me, I immediately perceive a sort of hierarchy among sound objects: in a generic “above” (topological, dynamic, textural) I perceive a series of points of sound with a particular tone color – they almost seem like bits of sonic matter – and in an equally generic “under” I perceive a dense, rough, coarse substance, almost in its natural, unrefined state. I know that points and mass don’t have the same value and I realize that the continuous bands of sounds function as link between one level and the other. I thus seem to perceive some form of syntax connecting the single points together, but I still can’t understand what it is: the points in fact don’t follow a regular rhythmic impulse, but only draw ascending and descending curves, following the pendular motion of crescendo and diminuendo. Here I realize I am facing a new perceptual category: the contrast between point and line, but this doesn’t help me decipher the present yet hidden underlying syntax. At a certain point, as I try not to be distracted by the “disturbance” of objects breaking and of strings breathing imperceptibly, I realize that the syntax is given by the apparently random silences that separate one string of sound from the other. After each silence there is a metamorphosis, after every dispersal of matter (fade-out) there is a condensation (fade-in), and I perceive the phrases that are separated by the silences like a dialogue, albeit continuously interrupted. A landing place finally comes: it’s a round, soft sound, that I suddenly recognize: a piano. This piercingly real “image” stays with me until the last moment, when “someone” hits “something” with a violence that could only mean “the end”.
The piece by Massimo Mariani, Six – O – Four, allows me to experience instead another fundamental perception: the one that emerges from the basic contrast between motion and stillness. Or better yet: it allows me to live the typically Varèsian experience of sound moving in space. The piece opens with a fixed and constant mid-frequency sound. I ask myself almost instinctively: is there a source, a direction, a course, a destination? Does it make sense to ask myself this question? The two question marks remain suspended until my attention is drawn to the surface on which this constant sound seems to occur. This surface is made of strange fibrous stuff, almost a spider’s web, but in contrast to the fixed sound it seems absolutely still, static and flat. Suddenly, through its immobility, the fixed sound not only acquires movement, but also reveals all of its spatial characteristics: source, direction, destination. This topological clarity is brief, however. In its movement the fixed sound makes a “loud” dynamic metamorphosis: it begins a striking crescendo that can only lead to a breaking point. From this moment on the perceptual categories change. As the maximum degree of entropy is reached, it suddenly and inevitably gives way to a state of almost total absence of sound: full is followed by empty, continuum is replaced by discrete. Here then I find myself associating almost unconsciously motion with fullness and stillness with emptiness: a perceptual condition that urgently requires a “resolution”. And indeed the wait is interrupted by the apparition of another “realistic” element, recalling the piano sound in the piece “Wahn”: a voice. Actually it is only a “hypothetical” voce, a curled-up tongue that cannot seem to unravel and doesn’t articulate any word: shriveled-up vocal chords that can only utter bits, refuse, residues of impure sound.
The vision of sound space offered by Franco Degrassi’s piece Luminal is instead completely different, being topologically much more precise than the last piece and, as a consequence, a lot more abstract. In the first “bars” (space actually needs to be measured!) I immediately perceive a distinction that I had not perceived in the previous pieces: that between “right” and “left”. It’s not the banal effect produced by the splitting of stereo channels, but the result of a thorough treatment of sonic matter that distinguishes “open” sounds (dynamically in expansion) from “closed” sounds (tending toward absorption). For a perceptual reason that remains mysterious to my ear, I tend to identify the left with the closed sound and the right with the open sound, and this creates a sort of aural “corridor” apparently devoid of any obstacles. But in this piece too a kind of “latent dramaturgy” that often seems to accompany electronic sounds imposes a turning point, an accident, a “perturbing” factor. The straight and reassuring linearity of the “corridor” is broken by a kind of “mechanical” accident, an unexpected hindrance. The sound’s breath suddenly becomes short: I associate this with the image of a gear activating another gear but having a broken cog that makes the motion broken, irregular, panting. As often happens when a complex mechanism begins to fail, the “virus” bringing on the anomaly quickly spreads to all of the machine’s parts, and the machine starts to breathe almost painfully. The dense, magmatic, dark sound of the device clashes with the acoustic nerve, presses it violently, attacks it, almost makes it bleed. This is the new experience of an acoustic unease, of a small torture, that in the end leaves a feeling of exhausted emptiness, of a background with no foreground figure, of a lone machine deprived of its vital mechanism.
Les jeux sont faits, the piece by Tommaso Perego, also presents an “abstract” topological structure, based on linear and definite spatial grids, but it draws me into a different perception, one essentially based on the process of accumulation and condensation. The introduction actually returns to the already manifested idea of pulsation: I hear a regular beat that increases and diminishes in volume, playing on the contrast of presence and absence, disclosure and concealment. But the pulsation is quickly absorbed by a sort of light and gaseous cloud, formed by inarticulate beep-beeps of a little electrical contraptions that lay, in pieces, on a glossy and compact surface. The cloud condenses (and here the figure of accumulation appears on the threshold for the first time) and brings on once again a constant, fixed and slightly undulating sound, that seems to cross a line of tattered sound that lingers, as though hanging from “something”. Now the game of presence/absence takes on a pendular and vaguely bewitching motion. I have the precise sensation that the undulating sound makes a circular motion: first it passes right in front of me, very close, then moves away, draws a perfect ring and finally returns exactly to the starting point. The movement, however, soon dies down, leaving in its wake a chaotic multitude of brief and contracted sonic objects, scattered in an empty space. Yet in the “finale” a sort of invisible magnet seems to attract these fragments, charging them with energy and making them swirl, as if in the eye of a micro-hurricane. As the speed of the swirling motion increases, the “battery” of the electrical sounds charges and releases the accumulated kinetic energy. And now the experience of condensation acquires a precise visual dimension, positioning along the spatial borders of left and right. The conclusion is brutal, unexpected, deliberately anti-rhetorical.
The first perceptual experience brought on by Mario Bajardi’s piece BJM Piano Studio, instead, is one of “fullness”. It’s a total fullness, without a correlating emptiness, a compact whole that doesn’t seem to have any cracks and fractures. The piece is introduced by a sort of metallic continuum, and for some reason I become convinced that I am in front of a smooth metal plate that resounds without being struck. I associate this image with the copper sheets used in the theater to produce the sound of thunder, but perhaps this is the effect of a remainder of “realistic” imagination in me. I realize I am facing a sound source that cannot produce something quiet or small but produces instead a constant state of maximum tension. In this case too climax must (necessarily?) give way to an anticlimax. The latter invariably comes, and appears like a new perceptual dichotomy, one juxtaposing abstract and concrete. Up until the crisis point, in fact, the sound is delocalized and abstract, but once this climax is reached, right on the crest after which everything goes downhill, some unexpected “off-stage noises” intervene. These noises seem to come from physical objects and have a concrete quality: sounds of abrasions, of things chafing, cracking, chipping. I’m overcome by the feeling that the space of these new perturbing noises is precisely the metal sheet, and that its surface, struck by an imaginary hammer, is about to give way, is close to the point of breaking. But something new takes place: the width of the sound suddenly turns vertical, it assumes an ascending course, and the metallic mass scatters and condenses, lightens and thickens, following the rhythm of a natural exhalation. An extensive silence introduces a violent soundscape in which sharp and heavy blows fall from a newly uncertain place, only slightly softened by distant resonances of vibrating strings: the concrete has once again ceded the sound space to the abstract.
Finally the piece by Giancarlo Turaccio, Trisì, leads me to experience yet another perceptual state, that between simultaneity and divarication. Or, more precisely, between the particular epiphany of simultaneity resulting from parallel voices and the special form of divarication represented by diaphony. The initial mechanism is obviously cumulative: the piece begins with a pure, isolated sound that seems to arch across a perfectly empty space. This first line of sound is then joined by another that runs essentially parallel to the first, and I sense in this the ideal coincidence between two identical, yet perfectly distinguishable, horizontal elements. Following the inevitable metamorphosis of kinetic processes, the two parallel monodies soon separate, creating an archaic diaphony in which fixed and mobile sounds overlap and interweave in a very dense texture. As soon as I am able to capture the “spectacular” phenomenon of the splitting of sound, a hundred other threads then join in, tending toward the chaotic entropy of a polyphonic texture. In this case too, however, the uncertainty of chaos is followed by a simpler and more accessible sound individuation (dramaturgically speaking, an excess of information can’t last forever). Anticipated by a long shifting bridge, here in fact appears, as on the stage of a little theatre immersed in the darkness, the nostalgic pleading of a blurry solo saxophone singing in the distance an unmistakable jazz standard. In this instant I experience the alienating divarication between two conflicting worlds: on the one hand, the residues of an historically determined and recognizable “voice” and, on the other, the magmatic pulsation of sound matter at a steady boil. The reassembling takes place as a paroxysmic dilation of time: with its deathly slow action, the quicksand swallows up the two “actors” and their respective scenes, releasing them no more. (Guido Barbieri)
Translation by Melinda Mele