Saturday, February 25, 2012

Die Schachtel: Past and Present of Experimental Music in Italy

Words and photos: Gian Paolo Galasi

Die Schachtel (t.: "The Box") is the name of a composition by Franco Evangelisti (Rome, 1926-1980) conceived as a staged action for mimes, projections and chamber orchestra but, since 2003, is also the name of an Italian label devoted to experimental music. Founders of Die Schachtel are Fabio Carboni and Bruno Stucchi. 

Passionate records collectors in their own words even before starting their own business, their project is perfectly in line with the history of the experimental music in our Country. Since the 1950s onward, the extreme cure for graphic details is a huge part of the heritage figures like sculptor Fausto Melotti, graphic designers Giovanni Pintori, Erberto Carboni, Gianni Sassi have left to the Italian experimental music history.

Not by chance one of the most acclaimed Die Schachtel productions, the 10CD+1DVD+Booklet+Poster box Musica Improvvisa, won the Design & Art Direction prize, while the website Hard Format put the team Die Schachtel/dinamomilano between the best examples on music design. Passion and quality, love and respect for a tradition, the one related to experimental music, whose history is still far from being rigorously unveiled to the present times. 

As both Carboni and Stucchi explained in an iterview for the Italian on paper magazine Blow Up in September 2011, "if Rai were like ORTF or INA-GRM, they would been publishing by themselves the treasures of their own immense archive, making an enormous favor to our Contry". It's a matter of facts that our Phonology Studios in Milano, for quite some time directed by Luciano Berio and Bruno Maderna, are still plenty of old tapes containing astouding performances by the likes, as an example, of Nino Rota and Salvatore Sciarrino.

A 4CD+300pgs booklet box containing experimental works like Sciarrino's Inferno and other  electronic music compositions that in the past won the higlhy praised Prix Italia is scheduled for this summer, while Die Schachtel catalogue, accessible also through mail order since 2008, is full of both reissues and original works. Some names, just to give the reader an idea: Phill Niblock, Alvin Curran, Claudio Rocchi, Henri Pousseur, Aldo Clementi, Gruppo di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza, Christina Kubisch are part of Die Schachtel catalogue. 

Waiting for the forthcoming box, here below you'll find some of the latest Die Schachtel productions, with an eye on both reissues and new productions. Readers curious about the label's catalogue, are warmly invited to skim through Die Schachtel editions and, for orders, to go to soundOhm webpage. 

Thollem McDonas / Stefano Scodanibbio On Debussy's Piano ... 
(Die Schachtel, 2010)

Since Stefano Scodanibbio sad departure right at the beginning of 2012, it can be interesting to introduce the most recent Die Schachtel releases with this beautiful record in which the instrumentalist/composer, a perfect partner for John Cage, Luciano Berio and Karlheinz Stockhausen, and many others share the bill with Thollem McDonas, a contemporary piano master and improviser whose range of collaborations spans through Nels Cline, Pauline Oliveros, Arrington DeDyoniso, Nicola Guazzaloca, Mike Watt, Marco Eneidi, Jad Fair. Introduced by some nice liner notes provided by composer Terry Riley, this record sees McDonas working towards improvised pieces aptly built for the occasion on a piano belonged to Debussy himself, loaned by the City of Brive-la-Gaillarde, with Scodannibbio pefectly in line with his widely acknowledged mastery. A perfect introduction to the world of the two musicians featured in this record.

catherine christer hennix the electric haprsicord 
(Die Schachtel, 2010)

Catherine Christer Hennix performed at the Cafe Oto in London on January. This release, with its 56 page booklet with texts by Hennix herself, LaMonte Young and Henry Flynt, is a wonderful and important document of the the so-called 'loft era'. CC Hennix is, as her close friend LaMonte Young, a composer, performer, mystic and mathematic deep cogniscenti. The Electric Harpsicord was premièred on 1976 as part of her Brouwer's Lattice program at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm. Inspired by the music of Pandit Pran Nath - to whom this work is openly dedicated - and by Iannis Xenakis, her heritage as daughter of an amateur Arabic scholar and of a jazz independent composer led CC Hennix to develop a music rooted in both algorithmic music theory, 'infinitary compositions' and scales inspired by Indian ragas. Performed originally on a tunable Yamaha keyboard, the piece is inspired by ethnologist and musicologist Alain Daniélou's Tableau comparatif des intervalles musicaux and described by Henry Flynt in the liner notes as - tactile, I'd hemphasize - 'hallucinatory sound environment'.

Fabio Selvafiorita / Valerio Tricoli Death by Water
(Die Schachtel 2010)

Recorded in the halm of Giudecca near Venice in 2009 and subsequently put on record in Milan in January 2010, Death by Water is made of field recordings, frequencies, effects, patterns, evoking T.S. Elliot's Waste Land through a layering and a narration through the chaining of the elements that gives life to a concrete, dense and multifaceted soundscape. I saw personally some years ago at The Lift, Attila Favarelli's studio, Valerio Tricoli (b. Palermo, 1977) performing with Robert Piotrowicz, and after in a solo exhibiton. His exploration of the sonic landscapes and their relationship with the psychic processes, is an accomplished and self conscious attempt to avoid the common clichés of electroacoustic music in order to obtain a personal and meaningful expressiveness. Fabio Selvafiorita (b. 1973) lives through Milano and Bologna, an electroacoustic and instrumental composer, computer related to music expert and musicologist; in his past worked also as movie director and editor. His interest for composition carries his cinematic attitude as a gift, clearly visible through his music. 

Philip Corner / Manuel Zurria Joy Flashings
(Die Schachtel, 2011)

Philip Corner (b. 1933) is an American composer. Disciple of Henry Cowell, Olivier Messiaen and John Cage, teacher at the NY City High School, minister at the Church of the Religious Science and active participant of Fluxus from 1961, his music carry a personal vision that passes through Korean calligraphy and popular music, Balinese gamelan, graphic scores, chance operations, minimalism, dance, visual art, Zen, baroque music. Joy Flashings is a collections of his collaborations with younger composer Manuel Zurria (b. Catania, 1962), starting with the 37 minutes of First Travels in the New Millennium (2000), the tranlation in music of the musicians first trip realized in the year 2000 and based on a textual code provided by a glissando and drone, and their emotional impact, through their most recent collaborations: Feelings for flute and drone, conceived as an 'haiku', or as a piece of 'subliminal music', Gamelan Situ, for three bass flutes and drones, built around a graphic giving order to the elements in the sound space, Stravinski Could-be, for environmental sounds and I phone, taking subtle emotions out of a mechanical combination of sequences, and Joy Flashings for toy instruments, piccolos and children choir, whose graphic score is the point of departure for a series of contrasts between stasis and movement. 

Nicola Ratti 220 tones
(Die Schachtel, 2011)

Born in Milan in 1978, member of the 'desertic sound-track band' Ronin with Bruno Dorella, close collaborator of Giuseppe Ielasi, Fatima Bianchi and Attila Favarelli and responsible of live performances side by side with Dean Roberts, Oren Ambarchi, Phill Niblock and Rhys Chatham, guitarist and electroacoustic composer/improviser Nicola Ratti gives life with his last solo effort 220 Tones to an interesting bunch of compositions for analog synthetizers, tapes, vynil records, strings, organs. Somewhere between sound art, glitch music, but gifted with an elliptical melancholic approach, Ratti gives life to structures built often upon layers of stumbling blocks of sound; the record is a reliable document of one of the possible approaches to today's experimental music. 

gruppo nps nuove proposte sonore 1965-1972
(Die Schachtel, 2011)

Teresa Rampazzi, a then 50 years old avant garde music performer (Maderna, Cage, Metzger, Bussotti, Nono, Donatoni, Castiglioni, Stockhausen) and deeply into electronic music coming out of Darmstadt, met in 1963 younger Ennio Chiggio, at that time in force to a small business company in charge to produce electronic material. After some intense meetings, they gave life, with Serenella Marega, Gianni Meiners and Memo Alfonsi, to Gruppo NPS (Nuove Proposte Sonore). Their purpose was to break down definitely with tonality and tempered system, refusing formalism, integral serialism and randomness in live performances. In order to realize the absolute and scientific control of every sound event, NPS started in Padova (IT) their own laboratory, focusing on sound ojects and the tune and density of the events. During their live shows, NPS were presenting 'sound events' instead of compositions. Squared waves, glissandos, noise stripes, the dynamics of noise under evocative titles as Ricerca, Funzione, Modulo, Interferenze, Masse is what the listener will find in this historical collection of documents that today remain highly enjoyable also for a pure listening experience.

7k Oaks Entelechy
(Die Schachtel, 2011)

Alfred 23 Heart (Cassiber, Otomo Yoshihide New Jazz Quintet) on tenor sax, bass clarinet, pocket trumpet, electronics, Luca Venitucci (Zeitkratzer, Ossatura) on keyboards, Massimo Pupillo (Zu, Original Silence, Peter Brotzmann, FM Einheit, Stephen O'Malley) on bass and Fabrizio Spera (Ossatura, Blast) on drums recorded their second album at the Open Circuit Interact Festival in Hasselt (Belgium) on May 2008. Imagine the free jazz multiphonics and glossolalia mixed with the powerful blasts and higlhly experimental structures of Zu's post (brutal) math, and you'll be almost near the high temperature of this cathartically burning mass of sound. Neil Rodgers' At Leat I Am Free here is in the most struggling and lyrical dresses you will find. The music can be easily related as far as attitude and accomplishments to Brotzmann's and Laswell's Last Exit, what means an attempt to mix 'high' and 'low' without hesitations and compromises. 

No comments:

Post a Comment