on music and beauty

Category: Texts

Organised Sound article

Modernising musical works involving Yamaha DX-based synthesis: a case study

This article written in collaboration with Jamie Bullock has been published on Organised Sound, issue no. 5 2006.

We describe a new approach to performing musical works that use Yamaha DX7-based synthesis. We also present an implementation of this approach in a performance system for Madonna of Winter and Spring by Jonathan Harvey. The Integra Project, “A European Composition and Performance Environment for Sharing Live Music Technologies” (a three year co-operation agreement part financed by the European Commission, ref. 2005-849), is introduced as framework for reducing the difficulties with modernising and preserving works that use live electronics.

Download the Organised Sound article

ICMC 2005 Harvey paper

Modernising live electronics technology in the works of Jonathan Harvey

This paper was written together with Jamie Bullock and presented at the 2005 International Computer Music Conference in Barcelona. Here follows the abstract:

Many twentieth century works composed for instruments and live electronics are seldom performed due to their use of near obsolete technology. Some performing bodies avoid such works because the necessary technology is either unavailable or too expensive to hire. This paper describes the current status of a project to modernise the technical aspects of Jonathan Harvey’s works in order to increase the likelihood of performance and improve longevity. The technical and ideological implications of the project are discussed in the context of a broader need for the preservation of contemporary works involving technology. The use of open source software and standard protocols is proposed as a way of reducing technological obsolescence. New solutions for two of Harvey’s works are proposed, and discussed in relation to the problems encountered with the project so far. Conclusions are then drawn about the current status of the project and its implications for further work.

Download the ICMC paper.

Persistence of ritual elements

Notes for a talk I gave during Birmingham Conservatoire’s Research Days in 2002.

Persistence of ritual elements in 20th century music. A composer’s view

Abstract
The ritual process in its various declinations, from tribal rites of passage to Greek tragedy, from religious ceremonies to the dynamics of social behaviour, is a powerful concept that can be applied to many seminal musical works of the last century. This paper aims to show briefly how the ritual dimension has been approached by composers, from Stravinsky to Berio, and how ritual elements are surprisingly attuned to many issues of today’s music.

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We can talk of ritual in relation to music and performance on two levels:
1. The ritual aspect of a performance, the rite of the concert, so to speak. It’s the frame that allows the performance to take place, and the sequence of events is very much like a ritual process. The analogy with the classical sequence of a rite of passage, as first described by Arnold Van Gennep in his seminal work Les rites de passage (Paris, 1908), is telling: there’s a separation, with a threshold to cross – the concert space – that transforms a number of individuals into an audience, then a marginal phase, the actual performance, and eventually a reintegration, when, after applause and sharing of comments, the audience is disassembled, and becomes again a sum of individuals. The origin of the word entertainment – from the old French entretenir – to keep separated, relates with this need to create a marginal, liminal space for the performance. Liminal comes from the Latin limen, meaning boundary, threshold, limit, from where comes preliminary, liminary and postliminary. To mimick even better the classical similarity with an actual rite, often we also have someone waving authoritatively a baton, as a high priest in charge of the ceremony. In the words of Joseph Kerman in Concerto Conversations, “the symphony concert remains one of the few arenas left for ritual interchange and display by the wealthy and powerful, and while this elite has grown and is growing exponentially, it has yet to invent alternative means of self-celebration”.

2. The second level is when the model of a ritual process, or elements of it, are used in a composition, and translate in the musical sphere the concepts and dynamics attached to human rituals. This is the way of looking at rituals in music that interests me most, and will be dealt with at some length. My aim is to show how employing ritual elements and models in music can amplify and unmask the connection with hidden archetypes, in the Jungian sense. This has two very concrete outcomes: it allows to bring to the surface profound similarities between very different musical styles and cultures, and gives unifying power to the music outside of the specific language being used. More importantly, it allows to bypass the issue of the language almost completely, and justifies the coherence of works that show apparently a rather confused stylistic approach – at least according to traditional language-based analysis tools.

As it has been shown by Stephen Walsh in his recent books devoted to Stravinsky, especially in The Music of Stravinsky (OUP 1988), the preoccupation with ritual elements is constant with the composer, and comes back and again like a red thread across all the different creative periods of his life. What is relevant to our main argument here is how the ritual approach enabled Stravinsky to channel the latent archetypal forces of Russian folklore into Modernist musical constructions: the ritual as a way to tame the wild and chaotic energy of nature and incorporate it into defined works of art, re-enacting a function of ritual common to most tribal societies.

How do we identify the ritualised elements in Stravinsky’s music? Some of his works are evident recreations of existing rituals – like Les Noces (The Wedding), and many others deal with – for example – fertility rituals or sacrifices under many different covers: Rite of Spring, of course, then Oedipus Rex, Persephone, Orpheus, etc. In other works where the ritualised element is not explicit, it is to be found in the character of the music. Let’s see how we can define this character, and how it has been subsequently employed by other composers working in the same direction.

There are a number of characteristics that belong to the “ritual” field:

Static, frozen
Ieratic
Circular
Repetitive
Non-expressive
Mechanical
Layered
Non-narrative
Incantation – Apotheosis
Distancing
Universalising, unity of action

Every one of this terms extends in very interesting directions, and could be used to write a cross-section history of music in recent years. The idea of non-expressive, for example, is about using ritualised expression, i.e. objective, against the subjectivity of Romanticism, but of course as Stravinsky himself said, not less moving because of that, on the other hand probably more moving (see the Symphonies of Wind Instruments). Stravinsky’s search for a mechanical production of sounds – especially in relation to Les Noces – is well known. Interestingly enough, the purposefully non-expressive white voice, without vibrato, is a characteristic of a number of African initiation rites.

The use of frames: we have seen at the beginning of this conversation how the ritual process involves the definition of a separated space, where the rite can take place. The framing devices that we find in works like Renard, Les Noces, Oedipus Rex, Persephone, by using a narrator, situate the story in a suspended space-time, and underline the ritual character of the action. The work becomes a ritual act, the re-enactment of a ritual drama. The frame creates distance. The connection with the parallel research of Meyerhold in the theatre, with the Theatre of Masks, is rather important, and this goes straight to Grotowski.

One of the most powerful compositional devices to confer on music a ritualised character is of course the use of repeating melodic, harmonic and rhythmic cells. Of special importance is the substitution of harmonic syntax with shifting harmonic fields. When we talk of harmonic fields we talk of static, non functional sets of pitches, that instead of obeying the rules of organic and dynamic growth, are layered and shifted, like planes in a Cubist painting, to give an idea. The internal movement of the fields can be extremely agitated, frenzied, but the overall impression is of a static landscape, since development happens by shifts of position and juxtaposition between different elements, rather than transformation.

The perfect example of this kind of ritualised music is the incantation effect, the kind of trance-like, multi-layered endless circular motion so characteristic of many Stravinskian endings, from the Symphony of Psalms to the Requiem Canticles, from the “Cantique” – 3rd of the Three Pieces for String Quartet_ to the Symphony in C, Apollon Musagète, etc. The effect is of a frozen landscape slowly turning on itself. In his fundamental book Musique et transe Jean Rouget shows how the incantation music of many trance-inducing rituals in tribal societies follows the same patterns. It is an easy step from here to contemporary techno in its various declinations of ritual, ambient, trance, and so on.

The need for ritual and popular music
In rave parties the DJ becomes a shaman, the master of ceremonies, while the venue, usually a warehouse, becomes a church. Rave as TAZ, Temporary Autonomous Zone, identical concept to the liminal phase of the ritual process according to Victor Turner.
Rave as a “trance device”, where the individual drowns in the collective rite, losing the sense of self. In the dichotomy figure/background, the figure fades away, the background becomes important. The big techno revolution is in this layering of sounds, and in the loss of the melody/accompaniment model of pop music. Background as a surface on which anything can be projected, where any sound objects can be layered freely. The background is the ritual dimension itself, the static element that allows the rite to set in. The electric body, vibrating and pulsating with the music. The Dionysian principle in its basic form. Repetitive is an adjective that of course can be used for what has been called Minimalist music.

One of the ritual elements that have been more successful in 20th century music is the non-narrative plot, the circular closed action, often inspired by a classical myth, and re-enacted as a ritual drama over and over again. And indeed, the perfect territory for the investigation of non-narrative techniques, is the music theatre and the opera. Writing for the opera the composer interested in a ritual approach is faced with the possibility of merging into one the two aspects that I outlined at the beginning: the ritual of the performance can indeed become the performance of a ritual. This is because in operas we can see in action both the external ritual of the performance, and the ritual nature of the opera itself. The example of Wagner’s Parsifal shows how tempting it is to think of opera as a kind of sacred performance, a religious celebration.
It comes then as no surprise that composers have looked at the non-narrative examples of ritual structures, from Greek tragedy to Japanese No theatre, as a way to overcome the stale narrative formulas of 19th century opera. If we take two works as different as Luciano Berio’s Outis, premiered in Milan on 1996, and performed again in Milan and Paris in 1999, and Harrison Birtwistle’s The Mask of Orpheus, we see how in both of them the composers used the same story, or rather the same mythical, symbolic sequence of events, and repeated it over and over again, seeing it from different angles, in the best tradition of Levi Strauss’ structural anthropology. In Outis – meaning “no one” in Greek, and inspired by Ulysses – the same series of symbolic events is repeated five times (initially it should have been six times), always starting with the same event, the death of the father. Another work by Berio that fits the description of a ritual drama is Passaggio (1961), on a text by Edoardo Sanguineti, a real modern example of a passion play.

Berio defines all his works written for the theatre as “musical actions”. The term has not really been employed widely, but he insists on using it. For Berio a musical action is a theatrical action that is generated and determined by the music. Music in control, so to speak, like in Wagner’s operas. In truth, there’s not much action to speak of in any of his operas. Without a story, and a story projected onto the music – as Kerman says – opera becomes a lyrical form , a ritual form, a plain entertainment form, or any combination of the three, but it loses its status as a dramatic form.

I became interested in rituals while working on my opera Magma in the mid-90s. I know that the ritual approach can be misleading for its immensity. The risk is always present of falling prey of the globality of the ritual approach. Think about the following; the indo-european root for the word is _ar-_, from which the following words also derive:

Harmony
Art
Order
Ornate, Adorn
Reason
Rite
Arithmetic
Rhyme

It is a powerful cluster of concepts, but too open. In fact, a lot of things can be interpreted as a ritual process, and it is very important to maintain an alert critical mind when dealing with rituals. An example of this is the work of the social anthropologist Victor Turner. He started from the basic triadic sequence of separation, margin, reintegration – as postulated by Arnold Van Gennep – and used it to define the very nature of social interaction, social crisis, social change. Following his personal experience with the Ndembe population in Africa, Turner saw how social dynamics in time of crisis in the life of the village were not “free”, but rather followed a determined sequence of situations that reflected a ritual process. By focusing his attention on the marginal – the liminal phase of the ritual process – Turner has been able to show how the reshuffling and reordering of society values during the liminal phase is the most creative time in the history of a society. This is a powerful intuition that can be extremely useful for composers, because it allows them to look at historical events or human behaviour with a deeper knowledge of the common model that they follow. A model that can be reinterpreted and translated into music, and still preserve some of its archetypal energy.

© 2002 Lamberto Coccioli

Lettre ouverte à Yann Orlarey

[in French] A letter I sent in November 2004 to Yann Orlarey, Scientific Director of GRAME in Lyon, France. The letter was in response to Yann’s decision not to participate in the Integra project. The text of Yann’s letter I was replying to is at the bottom of the post.

* * *

Cher Yann,

D’abord merci beaucoup pour tes commentaires si détaillés, et je te prie de m’excuser si je n’ai pas répondu avant, mais j’ai eu une semaine assez terrible, et je voulais dédier à ma réponse le temps nécessaire.

J’ai beaucoup de respect pour tes opinions sur le projet, et bien sûr, je partage avec toi certaines de tes réflexions plus générales sur la musique et les technologies. Mon point de vue, si tu veux, cherche à trouver un compromis entre la liberté de la création et la nécessité de la diffusion. Je suis – en tant que compositeur – prêt à céder une partie de ma liberté si j’obtiens par là une diffusion plus grande de mon œuvre. Si la diffusion est presque inexistante, comme il en est le cas pour la musique avec dispositif électronique, mes raisons deviennent d’autant plus pressantes.

Je pense toujours à la technologie « live electronics » comme à quelque chose qui appartient à la musique, qui est engendrée par la musique (conceptuellement avant de l’être dans la pratique), et qui suit les mêmes lois qui gouvernent la communication entre musiciens et publique. Dans ce contexte, les limitations n’ont jamais posé d’obstacles véritables à la création musicale. Au contraire, dans l’histoire de la musique il y a beaucoup d’exemples où les contraintes ont eu l’effet de stimuler et concentrer la créativité des compositeurs. Les instruments de musique utilisés dans nos concerts sont eux-mêmes des « standards » assez limités, mais qui assurent la transmission d’un message extrêmement complexe et diversifié.

Le vrai problème de la technologie aujourd’hui – et il s’agit d’un problème philosophique et esthétique avant que pratique – consiste en ses possibilités illimitées et auto-fécondantes, qui dépassent largement notre contrôle et notre capacité d’interprétation. Laissée à soi-même, la technologie n’a aucun sens. C’est pour ça que je ne vois pas comme un attentat à la liberté des créateurs si on essaie de limiter la technologie pour la reconduire à une dimension simplifiée, voire plus humaine, comme si c’était un instrument qu’il faut apprendre à jouer comme les autres.

Je sais très bien que mes considérations risquent d’être utopiques. Mais il faut bien que l’on commence à réfléchir sérieusement sur ces thèmes dans notre coin – d’autant que la simplification de la technologie est en train de devenir une notion de plus en plus importante dans d’autres branches de l’informatique appliquée.

Je suis tout à fait d’accord avec toi sur la standardisation : on ne peut pas l’imposer. Mais si assez de professionnels adoptent un « standard », il y a des chances que petit à petit ce standard prenne pied, surtout si le résultat est une diffusion plus grande des œuvres. C’est pour ça que si Integra sera financé il faudra partager les activités et les résultats avec le plus grand nombre d’institutions et musiciens.

Tu as parfaitement raison sur les coûts de développement, surtout pour réaliser la simplicité dont on parle: notre démarche est peut-être trop optimiste. J’espère pourtant que, sur la période de trois ans, on arrivera au moins à jeter les fondations d’un travail plus long à terminer.

C’est dommage que Grame ne veuille pas participer à Integra. C’est toujours mieux quand on a des opinions différentes au sein du même projet, et l’on va perdre l’occasion de nous confronter à fond sur des thèmes qui nous passionnent! J’imagine que tu seras assez occupé après le voyage en Chine, mais si tu as le temps de continuer ce dialogue à distance, j’en serais reconnaissant!

Bien à toi

Lamberto

_________________________

Cher Lamberto,

De retour de Chine, je voudrais clarifier la position de Grame concernant la partie scientifique du projet INTEGRA.

Tout d’abord et comme j’ai eu l’occasion de te le dire au téléphone la question posée par le projet : production, diffusion, patrimoine, perennité des oeuvres avec electronique et informatique est très importante et nous intéresse donc directement. Par contre nous avons beaucoup de réserves concernant la solution proposée à savoir : le développement d’outils standards et faciles d’accès, etc. Je me permets donc de te livrer quelques réflexions qui recouvrent sans doute les tiennes en grande partie.

1/ Simplicité : Bien entendu tout concepteur souhaite que ces outils soient les plus faciles à utiliser. Malheureusement la simplicité et la facilité d’utilisation n’est pas une qualité que l’on décrète comme la couleur ou la taille d’un objet. Les outils commencent bien souvent par être compliqués et il faut énormément de travail (et donc de moyens de développement) pour les rendre éventuellement un peu plus simples.

2/ Standardisation : on ne peut pas décréter de standard tout seul. On peut essayer de définir un standard en réunissant un nombre suffisant de partenaires influents, mais sans aucune garanties. Dans le domaine des nouvelles technologies les exemples d’excellents standards qui n’ont pas reussi à s’imposer sont nombreux. A l’inverse des solutions mauvaises ont réussis parfois à devenir des standards.

3/ Standardisation (bis) : La démarche de création s’accommode très mal d’outils standards. On est bien souvent dans le bricolage, la nouveauté, le prototype. La création est un domaine où tous les moyens sont bons et ou il ne peut y avoir de restrictions de moyens. Il me parait donc illusoire d’essayer d’imposer une restriction à des outils standards.

4/ Développement : le développement de nouveaux outils est très coûteux notamment en termes de mois/hommes. Ce n’est probablement pas le rôle d’un projet culture 2000 qui n’en aura, en outre, absolument pas les moyens.

En résumé, ce volet du projet est trop ambitieux pour des moyens trop limités. Nous ne voulons donc pas nous engager pour un objectif dont nous pensons qu’il ne pourra pas être atteint, et ce d’autant plus que cela ne nous parait pas être le bon objectif !

Alors quel doit être l’objectif ? A mon avis il faut profiter de ce projet et du consortium (très intéressant) pour réfléchir, tous ensemble, à la question posée, pour faire un état des lieux précis et exhaustif des problèmes que pose la circulation, la diffusion et la conservation des oeuvres avec dispositif. Et pour faire cela de manière efficace et utile, il faut *éviter* soigneusement la question de la création des oeuvres et des outils de créations. En d’autres termes il faut supposer l’oeuvre créée, faisant appel à toutes sortes de moyens, d’outils et de bricolages non standards, et à partir de là définir une démarche et des stratégies (voir des outils, mais qui ne seront pas des outils de création) visant à la rendre pérenne et facilement diffusable.

Toute autre démarche me parait utopique, mais bien entendu je suis à ta disposition pour qu’on en discute et nuancer les choses.

Très cordialement

Yann

Open letter to Paul White

Birmingham, 22 September 2003

To Paul White, Editor in Chief, Sound On Sound magazine

Dear Paul,

thank you for your leader column on the October 2003 issue. You have simply and beautifully put into words something we all feel when working on a music project in a technology-dependent environment, be it on a lone laptop or in a complex project studio: our creative energy is often held captive by the incredible amount of big and small technological problems we have to solve all the time.
Music software (almost ANY music software, unfortunately…) is the classical example, where hundreds of features are there to mask essentially flawed designs. Or how else would you describe technology that requires you to spend anything from 25% to 50% of your working time fixing things?
I worked for 5 years with the late Luciano Berio. One thing we disagreed upon was the role of technology in music: he was still convinced, like Stockhausen and the other great masters of his generation, that technology should be the result of musical thinking, the answer to a compositional problem; musical ideas triggered and in a way generated and justified the development of technology. My argument on the other hand was – and still is – that today music technology is more like a sea of possibilities, a huge expanse where composers wander and pick cherries at leisure. Musical ideas cannot influence technology developments anymore. Technology is already there. We must learn to choose and select what we really need for our musical projects. Sadly, the advances in technology have not made the choice any easier.
Which brings me to the last point: have you ever thought that SOS articles – with their unrelenting focus on new products and technologies irrespective of the human/emotional/musical value – are fostering a culture of technology for technology’s sake? It is maybe time for you to take a stance, and focus only on those products/technologies that show a real concern for the workings of the musical mind and the needs of the creative process. The risk of course is that you’re probably going to end up with a very thin magazine…

Best wishes

Lamberto

Promozione della musica contemporanea

Il testo che segue è stato scritto nel 2000 su invito di Rossana Rummo, allora alla Direzione Generale dello Spettacolo al Ministero dei Beni Culturali.

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Note sulla promozione della musica contemporanea in Italia


1. Considerazioni generali

Parto da una considerazione banale: una persona intellettualmente curiosa ma senza una preparazione specifica acquista volentieri un libro o un disco appena usciti, segue teatro e cinema, va ai concerti, visita le mostre ed è generalmente abbastanza informata sull’attività culturale della propria città, ma molto difficilmente ascolta musica contemporanea. Perché?

La risposta in fondo è molto semplice: ogni espressione artistica ha la sua storia, e così la musica. Se non conosciamo il cammino svolto dalla musica nel corso della sua storia non possiamo capire, giudicare e amare quella di oggi. E purtroppo l’educazione musicale non specialistica in Italia è nota per la sua tragica inadeguatezza.

Tuttavia non si tratta solo di un problema di mancanza di offerta educativa o di impreparazione del pubblico: infatti è ormai chiaro che nella seconda metà del Novecento le scelte eccessivamente astratte ed elitarie di gran parte delle avanguardie musicali hanno allontanato dalla musica contemporanea la maggioranza del pubblico e reso indifferente un’altra grande parte, rompendo di fatto il circuito della comunicazione tra compositori e ascoltatori, e privando la creazione musicale di uno strumento importantissimo di confronto, controllo e orientamento. In una parola, si è indebolita enormemente la funzione sociale del compositore, la sua necessità all’interno di una vita musicale attiva, mentre questo ruolo è stato gradualmente ricoperto dalle varie forme di musica “popolare”.

La musica che si scrive oggi ha senz’altro superato l’eccessiva confusione dei linguaggi e lo sperimentalismo fine a se stesso del secondo Novecento, ma la frattura con il pubblico è stata talmente forte che un suo riavvicinamento potrà avvenire solo se esso sarà guidato e aiutato con grande energia.

In questo quadro è comprensibile come qualsiasi aiuto ministeriale rivolto alla promozione della musica contemporanea sarà mal diretto se non si rivolgerà prima di tutto a formare il pubblico e a rivoluzionare il sistema delle sovvenzioni come si è protratto fino ad oggi. L’obiettivo è quello di creare le condizioni per una vita musicale dinamica e, dopo alcuni anni, capace di regolarsi autonomamente. E’ indubbio, però, che per un certo periodo sarà necessario guidarla e dirigerla: a differenza del passato, sarà opportuno schierarsi introducendo criteri di valutazione soggettiva, naturalmente ispirati alla qualità delle offerte proposte. Ciò porterà ad una provvidenziale riduzione del numero degli enti che beneficiano dei contributi ministeriali, e, di conseguenza, ad una maggiore entità delle singole sovvenzioni. Al tempo stesso sarà necessaria un’azione concertata con il Ministero della Pubblica Istruzione e, dopo la riforma dei Conservatori, con quello dell’Università, per fare del miglioramento dell’educazione musicale di base fin dai primi anni dell’infanzia, a scuola e fuori, la priorità assoluta.

Orientamenti simili sono fortunatamente emersi nei lavori della VII Commissione al Senato di cui è relatrice l’On. Manieri. Naturalmente anche lo studio di esperienze simili in altri paesi può dare delle idee preziose, e l’esempio europeo da cui trarre oggi maggiori insegnamenti mi sembra quello inglese.

Come è noto contribuiscono ad una vita musicale attiva diverse componenti: la formazione (sia di base che professionale), la creazione (i compositori), la produzione (teatri, istituzioni concertistiche, case editrici e discografiche) e naturalmente il pubblico. L’aspetto che mi sembra più preoccupante nella vita musicale italiana è la mancanza di integrazione tra queste diverse componenti: ciascuna di esse segue il suo cammino autonomo, interagendo con le altre solo occasionalmente e spesso casualmente. E’ ovvio che in una situazione del genere sia necessario prendere posizione, anche in modo forte, per integrare le diverse componenti.

Un esempio fra tanti: le sovvenzioni, anche importanti, che vengono rivolte solo all’ultimo anello della catena, le prime esecuzioni di nuova musica, non sono efficaci e ottengono spesso un effetto contrario a quello desiderato. Incentivare solo le prime esecuzioni è un po’ come finanziare un film e distribuirlo solo per una sera. E’ necessario invece favorire lo sviluppo di un repertorio contemporaneo, richiedendo che le opere nuove vengano rieseguite almeno un certo numero di volte entro i 12 mesi successivi alla prima esecuzione, naturalmente in luoghi diversi. Creando dei pool, delle reti di teatri in varie parti d’Italia le opere avrebbero una maggiore visibilità, e – come è auspicabile nel caso dei lavori più validi – potrebbero ambire successivamente a vita autonoma entrando a far parte del repertorio.

2. Giovani compositori
Tenendo conto delle considerazioni esposte più sopra, e quindi della necessità di una stretta collaborazione tra Ministero dei Beni Culturali e Ministero dell’Università, uno degli obiettivi più importanti da perseguire è la creazione di un legame forte tra scuola, conservatori e istituzioni musicali presenti nella stessa città.

1. commissioni
Nuove opere potrebbero essere commissionate ai migliori studenti iscritti all’ultimo anno dei corsi di composizione nei vari Conservatori, da far eseguire all’orchestra o a gruppi di strumentisti appartenenti allo stesso Conservatorio; i migliori diplomati in composizione, invece, potrebbero ricevere delle commissioni retribuite e con garanzia dell’esecuzione da parte di gruppi od orchestre professionali della città nell’ambito della loro consueta programmazione concertistica.

2. concorsi di composizione
In Italia oggi si contano più di 50 concorsi di composizione all’anno, di cui molti riservati ai giovani. Non so quanti di essi beneficino direttamente di sovvenzioni ministeriali, ma il loro numero è sicuramente eccessivo. Sarebbe di gran lunga più utile e preferibile avere meno concorsi, con premi più consistenti, maggiori garanzie di qualità nell’organizzazione e una maggiore visibilità dei lavori premiati.

3. residenze presso orchestre o teatri
Si tratta di una formula estremamente interessante, molto comune in altri paesi (composer in residence), e applicata solo saltuariamente in Italia. In pratica si dà l’opportunità a un giovane compositore di risiedere per un periodo di tre-sei mesi presso un’orchestra o un teatro, con il duplice scopo di scrivere un’opera per quell’organico e di prendere parte in modo privilegiato alla vita dell’istituzione musicale, ricoprendo vari ruoli durante la preparazione e le prove delle manifestazioni musicali.

4. attività didattica
Come ho già accennato la promozione della musica contemporanea e quindi l’aiuto ai giovani compositori non possono essere disgiunti dall’intervento sulla scuola. Soprattutto oggi, con l’ausilio delle nuove tecnologie elettroniche, è possibile immaginare un rapporto stretto e fecondo tra giovani creatori di musica e pedagogia musicale, come anche la recente istituzione dei “Laboratori musicali” nelle scuole lascia prevedere.

© 2000 Lamberto Coccioli

Fanfare interview

George Caird, Principal of Birmingham Conservatoire, interviewed me for the Fanfare magazine in 2001.

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Composer and Music Technologist, Lamberto Coccioli came to the Conservatoire in September 2000 to take up the newly created post of Head of Music Technology. George Caird spoke to him about Music Technology and his particular interest in new technologies applied to music performance.

GC With our diaries the way they are, interviewing for an article in Fanfare will be a very good way of catching up with you on all that is going on in the Music Technology Department. I suppose the first and most obvious question is: why did you decide to come and work in England?

LC The main reason was that the new Head of Music Technology post here offered the chance to do something “from scratch”. My experience is that it is much harder to undo habits and established ways of going about things and it seemed possible at the Conservatoire to move forward very quickly. I was also interested in the artistic possibilities for Music Technology which you seemed so open toward.

GC And we were very interested in this approach too. You are a composer who also has become expert in music technology. For you, what is music technology?

LC The expression “music technology” covers a vast range of interrelated disciplines. My specific approach to technology is to look at it from a performer’s point of view. We need to consider technology just like another instrument – albeit a very multi-faceted and complex one – and learn how to play it. It is a powerful tool for composers and performers alike. Technology can amplify and project musical ideas and gestures. Technology can help expand and unmask what is latent in the music. But musical ideas should always remain the starting point of any technological process applied to them.

GC For many of us, Music Technology can be a confusing term. The explanation you have just given does not include recording technology for example.

LC That’s right. As I said, Music Technology is a byword for many things and covers recording and production, live sound, music for traditional and new media, and many other areas of application. We are covering all of these areas within the department , with a specific emphasis on technology in performance.

GC When you came to the Conservatoire, our facilities were not very advanced. Since then, we have invested quite a lot in new facilities for your department.

LC I’m very pleased with the consistent and generous support for the department. We now have an iMac lab with 8 fully equipped music workstations running the latest software, 2 editing suites, one for audio-visual projects, and three recording studios: we have completely renovated the recording studio for the Adrian Boult Hall and we are now building a new digital studio for DVD authoring and surround sound in addition to the existing recording studio in the Ground Floor Extension. Both these studios will feature state-of-the-art ProTools HD3 systems and the new Yamaha DM2000 and 02R/96 digital mixing desks.

GC What about staffing?

LC We have also been lucky to appoint Simon Hall as Assistant Head of Music Technology. Simon is Course Director for the new BSc joint course in Music Technology which we are running with UCE’s Engineering Faculty at the Technology Innovation Centre. He is a composer and contributes to our work on performance with technology. Matthew O’Malley, our studio manager, is himself an accomplished musician and ensures the smooth running of our facilities.

GC Tell me something about the creative work which the department is doing.

LC We are working with the Conservatoire’s composition students using live electronics. Some of our students, notably James Hoult, David Denholm, Liz Johnson, Chris McClelland, have taken to this medium with great imagination and new works have been performed on a number of occasions over the past two years.
In addition, some instrumentalists and singers have shown interest in this kind of work. Pianists Laure Pinsmail and Katharine Lam have performed with live electronics in the past year and soprano Sarah Busfield’s performance of Jonathan Harvey’s From Silence with the composer in attendance was a memorable highlight this year.

GC What are your artistic aims for this area of performance?

LC To perform important works by leading composers like Harvey, Boulez, Nono, Reich, Francesconi, etc., in order to establish a continuity between existing repertoire and new works. I want to promote the use of technology in performance to convince artistic directors and conservatoires that this is an important, growing area of creativity. My dream is to establish here a Centre for Performance and Technology, a place where students and professionals can work together.

GC Of course, you are primarily a composer and you worked for many years with Luciano Berio. Are you finding time for composition and what are you working on?

LC I am writing but I certainly need more time! After my experience with Magma I’m planning to write another operatic work with new technologies. Magma involved amplified actors, singers, and orchestra, live electronics and real-time video manipulation. It explored musical gesture and ritual structures, using technology as a means of revealing hidden archetypes. I am interested in how technology can add layers of meaning to the music, “extracting” meaning from a kernel.

GC What other works have you written recently?

LC I’m working on an orchestral piece based on recordings I made of Indian songs and natural sounds from the Orinoco basin in Colombia. Here I analysed the harmonic spectrum of the sounds and then used them to create with the orchestra a sort of “blurred photograph” of the original soundscape, filtering sounds into a complex score. Last year I have also finished river teach me, a work for soprano and string quartet on a text by the late Polish poet Zbigniew Herbert, performed recently by the Thallein Ensemble in the Conservatoire.

GC What would you like the Conservatoire to do in response to your ideas on new music?

LC To be more aware of what is going on creatively. To move towards more varied creative ensembles and away from the conventions involving larger orchestras. I would like to see us involved in more cross-faculty and cross-arts work with new media and interdisciplinary creativity, especially with BIAD. We will be showing some possibilities at next year’s Music Xtra Festival in March.

GC I agree that we must look at the potential in all these ideas. It is very exciting to see the Conservatoire responding to the possibilities created by you and your department. Lastly, you are a fine musician and an expert in Music Technology. You also speak four languages fluently and you and Gloria just had a third child…how do you manage so much?

LC Of course I have been lucky to grow up in the center of Europe where speaking more than one language is common. But I am interested in the power of possibilities, in lateral thinking and in taking opportunities as they arise. All these things bring new cultures and enrichment to us all.

Carnegie Hall lecture

Notes for a talk I gave on works by Berio and Maderna.

Pre-concert Lecture, The Luciano Berio – Tempo Reale Workshop
Carnegie Hall, New York, October 1997

The three compositions that are going to be played tonight are of a very different nature. A new work for two soloists and orchestra, Alternatim, a short piece for small instrumental ensemble, Serenata per un satellite; and Ofanim, a long composition for two children’s choirs, a female voice, two instrumental groups and live electronics. Those of you who are used to come to this hall will notice the differences: we don’t want to show off the technology, but you will nonetheless see a certain number of loudspeakers all around the place, plus a – quite well hidden, I must say – mixing desk in the parquet. I will explain to you in a short while what is the purpose of those devices.

Tonight we will take part, in fact, in three different musical experiences: one – listening to Serenata per un satellite by Bruno Maderna – where the musical gestures are fixed, and repeated at leisure by the performers. Another – Alternatim by Luciano Berio – where two solo instruments – a clarinet and a viola, generate the orchestral landscape from their melodies and figurations, amplifying and giving more resonance and greater scope to their solo discourse. And a third – Ofanim, again by Berio – where technology is employed to amplify and clarify the complex texture of sounds, and to place the bold musical gestures of the score in a completely new acoustical scenario.

Why am I talking of gestures, of musical gestures? This is a very important point, and one that I’d like to stress, because it’s very close to the heart of Luciano Berio’s musical thought. When an instrument plays, or a voice sings, it makes gestures. The physical act that translates the written page in sounds is heavy with meaning for us, and a deep knowledge of the meaning of a musical gesture is necessary if we want to control it, to master the rhetoric of the instrumental tradition without being mastered by it. Luciano Berio has always been well aware of the powerful meaning of our musical tradition, be it western classical, folk, ethnic, and knows how to cope with it, and how to use it for his artistic purposes. This is why so often his music reaches the audience with great, immediate force, without compromising a rich and complex musical language. It really works on two layers, one of strong communication through the subtle control of every possible musical gesture, the other of a composite musical fabric where both instrumental and formal experiments are carried out in depth. In other words, an abstract approach and a concrete one meet in a multi-layered musical experience.

This in part is true of the work of Bruno Maderna too, whose Serenata per un satellite, in the version realised by Paul Roberts, will be played tonight.
Serenade – it’s a rather uncommon term for a composition of contemporary music, especially in the Fifties, when the titles were more like Structures, Mutations, Kontrapunkte, very hard titles in a way, for a music who didn’t want to compromise with the emotions, and, for that matter, with the past. In fact, Berio too wrote a Serenade, during the Fifties, and Maderna too, before writing the one we’ll listen to tonight. Maderna wrote many Serenatas during his life, four, and the last one, called Juilliard Serenade was composed for the famous New York music school in 1971.

It is interesting to quote what Berio himself said on the subject of Serenade: “In the Fifties the composers were deeply involved with the search for structural references and a new serial order; the face of music was always grouchy. Bruno Maderna’s Serenata and mine were the first to come out after the war. They seem to me the first examples in which serial music becomes more relaxed and shows a less severe aspect.”

It was a sign that something had changed in the music of those years, something that gave way to a happier, less abstract approach to composition. These words portray both men, really, and allow us to understand one of the strong elements always present in Berio’s music: its lack of ideological “partis pris”, of prejudices of every sort. Music according to Berio and Maderna too (he was an enfant prodige, conducting his first concert at 8 and playing the violin at La Scala when he was 7 years old) can only be approached taking into proper account the fact that it has to be performed, and listened to. Too abstract an approach, too scientific, simply will not work. In music, more so than in any other art form, the abstract and the practical meet together.

In music the concrete is the idea, and vice versa. In the musical experience there’s always a drama hidden beneath the surface. The players, through their musical gestures, convey to the audience the ideas of the composer, adding a theatrical dimension to the music – that is to say, the performance. Not to be aware of this, as a composer, can impoverish, deplete the music of a fundamental dimension, that will always be there, even if the composer ignores it.

Going back to our serenades, it is clear then that such an old-fashioned title was a kind of provocation against the clichés of new music. Maderna was well aware of this. He was a witty man, as Serenata per un satellite shows. The idea of the piece is to have a set of different musical phrases or figures, that are to be played in any order, together, or divided by small groups, or one instrument at a time. There is complete freedom in the construction of the piece then, but the notes cannot be changed. This is typical of Maderna’s approach to what is called aleatoric technique in music, a technique that John Cage used intensively during his whole life. Maderna always wrote down the notes and the freedom he left the performers was always confined to the order of the events, their duration, or their superimposition.

Serenata per un satellite is also really a conductor’s game, a piece that Pierre Boulez would have liked. There are a number of musical figures that can be played freely by any instrument – ad libitum, as it were – and the conductor is a bit like the co-ordinator of this musical traffic, starting and stopping the players. The phrases to be played are all presented in a beautiful manuscript page written by Maderna himself, where they all interweave and bend in every direction. The interplay of these lines makes up the piece, a witty and intelligent musical joke, that in the hands of good and inspired performers like tonight’s can become a small masterwork full of humour.

Alternatim refers in its title to a technique of medieval music, commonly found in European tradition until the XVth century. Guillaume Dufay, among many others, employed it in its motet written for the opening of the church of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence. The technique consisted in alternating polyphony and monody, soloists and organ. Here we have two solo players, a viola and a clarinet, and an orchestra with strings, brass and winds, but no percussion. Two questions jump to the mind immediately: the first – how this work relates with the tradition of the concerto, or double concerto to be precise, and what is the relationship between the two soloists and the orchestra?

The answer to the first question lies in the very nature of the classical concerto – seen as a display of instrumental virtuosity and intelligence, and always very homogeneous in its nature. As Berio himself says, there is no longer a way to establish homogeneity of meaning between one or more soloists and a mass of musicians of different density or nature – such as existed in Baroque, Classical, and Romantic concertos, when the “individual” and the “mass” could practically say the same thing despite their completely different densities and acoustic characters. Today the relationship between soloist and orchestra is a problem that must ever be solved anew, and the word concerto can be taken only as a metaphor.

These are bold statements, and not everybody will agree with them. Well, it is indeed possible to write a concerto today, but the composer has to take into account that the reassuring unity of the classical concerto is lost forever. The answer given to this dilemma by Berio is to make the soloist or the soloists – as it is the case in Alternatim – the starting point of the work, from where originates the whole musical journey. In other words, the musical lines played by the soloists engender, create in a way the musical functions of the whole orchestra.

The choice of the clarinet and the viola is a telling one: they are the real chameleons of the orchestra, and better than other instruments can act as a link between different instrumental families. Like many contemporary composers Berio has never been interested in instrumental families like the ones we find on the orchestration textbooks, but has always explored what we can call the sound families, the families that underline analogies between instruments that are normally very far one from the other. The clarinet and the viola are probably the most useful instruments for an exploration of sound families, given their different registers and their not too specific or confined sound. Think of a violin, or a piano, or even an oboe, and you’ll see how difficult it is to find similarities in other instruments of other families. It is possible, yes, but the viola and clarinet have many more choices for interacting with other members of the orchestra.

As I said before, the lines played by the soloists are the starting point of the piece. We could define those lines as melodies, but the term “line” is less charged with meaning, and probably explains better their role in generating different musical events for the orchestra. We could think of the line as a kind of complex melody – and a melody is rich and interesting when it implies many different musical functions.

Let’s consider Bach’s music for solo cello, solo violin or solo flute, as an example. In those works, a melody implies always a strong polyphonic texture, as the instrument jumps from one register to the other, carrying on different independent lines and at the same time merging them into a single one. On the other hand, think of the importance of the theme during the Classical and Romantic era. A musical theme shaped and ordered all the material of a sonata or a symphony movement. Melody in classical music has always hidden many powerful functions affecting all the elements of composition. That is why a melody written today needs to have the same range of different musical functions.

In Alternatim one of the basic areas of investigation is the relationship between the soloists and the orchestra, that is to say how a monodic line transforms itself into a polyphonic texture, into a complex musical fabric. If we take a quick look at the other works written by Berio for solo instruments and orchestra we always find out different solutions to this challenging problem. I’ll point out two examples: the series of the Chemins, where the original Sequenza for solo instrument is transcribed, projected, in the orchestral field, and the radical solution of Coro, where there are forty voices and forty instruments, and every single instrument is coupled with a different singer. In Alternatim we have this beautiful melodic line, that starts with a series of leaps of a fourth, both perfect fourth and augmented fourth, an interval that comes back all the time in the course of the work. Why this insistence?

The historical importance of the interval of fourth cannot be understated: it is like a bridge that links the oldest European music, the music of the Middle Ages, with the music of the beginning of our century, primarily Debussy and Schoenberg, but also Stravinsky, and Scrjabin. In between we have the supremacy of the classical tonal language, based on the interval of a third, like in a major or minor chord of the scale. The relationship with musical history in Berio is never an innocent one: if he chooses to work with certain elements it is because he wants to bring to the surface their hidden power, and make them react with other – rather different musical objects. In a way this is an approach very dear to another great composer of our century, Igor Stravinsky, but Berio extends the scope of this musical investigation further and reaches new territories.

This initial melodic line is an ever-present element of Alternatim, and comes back always different, but always recognisable. This gives me the opportunity to spend a few words over the fertile idea of redundancy in music, an idea that I’m sure Berio has spent some time investigating. The repetition, the coming back of the same element is a very strong feature of music of all times, and a fundamental way for communicating musical ideas. It has all to do with perception, and the way we listen to music. Contemporary composers shunned for a long time the very idea of repeating whatever. Without repetition, though, there can be no comprehension. This is especially true of a music that is not written using the tonal language, that powerful – still powerful – tool for giving the ear guidance. Redundancy, repetition of the same musical element, be it a line, a series of chords, a rhythmic pattern, becomes a way for helping the listener grasp the musical thought of a composer.

At the beginning of this discussion I mentioned the machines in the hall. I will now explain to you why we have filled Carnegie Hall with these big, black loudspeakers, and what is their purpose. But let me first say a word on the relation between technology and music. Music made with electro-acoustic machines and devices has been around now for more than forty years, and Berio himself, as he said to those of you that were taking part in the workshop this afternoon, started writing electronic music during the Fifties. Yet – I think that a fundamental difference exists between that period and today. In those years the composers were the ones that started experimenting and they created the demand for new machines to realise their musical experiments. In a way, musical thought guided the birth of new machines and their characteristics, so that there was a situation comparable to the introduction of new instruments during the preceding centuries. Nowadays, on the contrary, and for quite a long time now, probably from the end of the Seventies, electronic machines started to be an incredibly useful tool for commercial music and ceased to be under the direct influence of musical thought. In fact, it was musical thought that started to run after new technologies, trying to cope with the startling amount of new machines coming out every moment.

Structure of the piece, alternating great density and calmer moments, static, harmonically static.

Electronics in the piece: harmonizers, delay, spatialization.

Functions: amplifying, clarifying the harmonic structure, emphasising the structure, and amplifying the expressive range, through amplitude and density.

Ofanim is a piece that can be played in many different spaces, and every time we perform it in a different space, the music changes, according to many different factors. And every time we learn more on the relationship of sounds with space. It is really a work in progress, but one whose many faces, corresponding to its subsequent performances – we hope – convey always the same musical meaning. Because, I say it once again, live electronics technology should always be part of a wider musical vision, and it should really act as an amplifier – in every direction – of a musical meaning, that – even sketched – has to be already there, in the score.

© 1997 Lamberto Coccioli

Integra, a novel approach to music with live electronics

Anders Beyer invited me to write an article on the Integra project for Nordic Sounds. Here it is. Read on or download the magazine issue.

Integra, a novel approach to music with live electronics

A desire to empower composers and performers to work with live electronics technology in a musical and user-friendly way is at the heart of the Integra project, an international collaboration of research centres and new music ensembles supported by the European Commission. Thanks to a programme of interrelated activities along the three main axes of research, creation and dissemination, Integra seeks to initiate a widespread change of perception towards technology among all the professional actors involved in contemporary music creation and diffusion in Europe.

Integra started taking shape during many long and inspired telephone conversations that I had with Luca Francesconi, the renowned Italian composer and professor of composition at the Malmö Academy of Music, in September 2004. Luca must also be credited for the project name – Integra – a simple and powerful way to remind us of our real focus: the integration of artistic and scientific elements in the creation and performance of music with technology. After agreeing on the project structure and strategy, Richard Shrewsbury (formerly project administrator of Connect, another large European music project) and myself started to establish a network of partner institutions and we completed the final application in October 2004.

While drafting the project, we set out to find concrete answers to pragmatic issues. Inevitably, we ended up making strong assumptions on the philosophical and aesthetic implications of technology in music. The fundamental issue with technology lies in its unlimited potential and its self-replicating nature: technology is inherently meaningless. If we are going to use it in music we will have to ask ourselves some hard questions. Why do we need it? How can it be musical? How can it be controlled?

In order to be harnessed, technology should be brought back to a human dimension, and considered just like another musical instrument – a polymorphous one, to be sure, but still an instrument – that we can learn and play. To achieve this, Integra aims to simplify live electronics technology, and to establish a standard vocabulary to describe it. The word “standard” is often disliked, but we should not forget that the musical instruments employed in our concerts are themselves “standard”, in fact quite limited ones: nevertheless, they allow the transmission of an extremely complex and diversified musical message.

Integra is not alone in this effort towards more user-friendly technology, although it is only recently that usability, good interface design and a preoccupation for how humans interact with machines have started to appear in technology products. Sadly, as far as the history of music technology is concerned, we are still living in the colonisation phase. I like to compare our current experience with the Wild West: new territories are conquered every day, there are no common laws, survival depends from individual initiative. And we are all still digging in search of that elusive gold mine. This explains the proliferation of do-it-yourself systems over the past three decades, when each work, even by the same composer, required a different technological setup (hardware, software, or both). The often-poor documentation of the electronic parts and the rapid obsolescence of the original hardware and software have prevented the adoption of a core repertoire of works using live electronics in mainstream concert programmes.

True to its name, Integra brings together research centres (the scientific group) and new music ensembles (the artistic group): two often-different worlds, with different agendas and priorities, will share their experience and work together. This is possibly the single most important aspect of Integra: all the activities of the project are designed to allow the findings of the scientific group to feed back into the events organised by the artistic group, and vice-versa.

Research

The research activities will cover two main areas: the modernisation of works that use obsolete technology, and the development of a new software-based environment for the composition and performance of music with live electronics.

These two activities are closely related: during the first year of the project the research centres will transfer the technology of around thirty works, chosen together with the artistic ensembles for their musical and historical relevance. The transferred music will include works by Gérard Grisey, Jonathan Harvey, Tristan Murail and Arne Nordheim among the others. This migration process will mainly consist in adopting standard software-based solutions in order to emulate faithfully the original set up and overcome the inherent problems of accessing and maintaining old equipment. Most of the migrated works will quickly find a place in the repertoire of the artistic members of the project, and, it is hoped, of many other contemporary music ensembles around the world.

The knowledge and experience acquired in this vast migration exercise will be used as one of the two starting points for the development of the Integra environment, the other being the feedback from the ten composers that will receive the Integra commissions. By combining the lesson of the tradition with the requirements of contemporary creation, we ensure that the Integra environment will be flexible and robust, spanning an ideal bridge between past and present technology.

Usability and sustainability are the key words here. The Integra environment will be easy to use, and first and foremost a musical tool for composing and performing with electronics; it will also define a new vocabulary to represent electronic events in a standard, software and platform-independent way to ensure their long-term maintenance and survival. More in detail, the environment will be composed of four distinct elements:
1. Database – The back-end of the environment, a standard online database to store modules, performance data and documentation, initially for each transferred and commissioned work.
2. Namespace – An OSC-compliant (Open Sound Control) Integra XML namespace to represent and share all live electronics data among the various elements of the Integra environment.
3. Interface – The front-end of the environment, an intelligent graphic user interface designed around the needs of musicians and for maximum ease of use.
4. Engine – the actual DSP engine of the environment, an extended collection of analysis, synthesis, processing and control software tools.

The concept underlying our modular approach is the representation of the audio network, the control network and their behaviour over time independently from a specific implementation. In other words, we propose a higher level description of live electronics that can stay the same while technology changes.

Creation

Ten European composers will receive Integra commissions, with each new music ensemble commissioning two composers from other European countries. The recipients of the first five commissions are Malin Bång (Sweden), Natasha Barrett (UK/Norway), Andrea Cera (Italy), Tansy Davies (UK) and Juste Janulyte (Lithuania). These five composers will be writing for small chamber ensemble (from three to five players) and live electronics. The works will be premiered between January and September 2007.

The second set of commissions, for large ensemble and live electronics, will be announced at the end of November 2006. The creations of these works will happen between January and July 2008. Mixed-media interaction will be encouraged, as well as site-specific performance events.

Integra will retain exclusive rights on the performance of the commissioned works for three years after the creation, thus enabling every ensemble to perform all the works commissioned by the other ensembles.
Each composer and the performers involved in the piece will be working with a research centre in producing the electronics. This collaboration, extended over a period of two visits (four for the larger works), will allow the composer to work with the tools being developed for the Integra environment. The feedback from the composers will be used to help design tools that are intuitive, powerful, and above all musical.

Dissemination

The success of the Integra environment will be measured by its public support and widespread adoption by composers and performers in Europe and around the world. We aim to build a community of musicians and researchers to look after Integra once it arrives the end of its official life in September 2008. To achieve this ambitious goal we are devoting a considerable effort to create a network of institutions and individual contacts. We are also keen to establish links with ongoing projects in related areas (digital content preservation and storage, Human-Computer Interaction, etc.), promoting standards and ensuring interoperability between Integra and other related applications.

In rough numbers, during the life of the project we will be delivering: thirty individual training sessions on live electronics technology for the commissioned composers (each lasting three days), and forty individual training sessions for the performers of the new music ensembles (some of these sessions will overlap, to allow composers and performers to work together on the commissioned works); a minimum of fifteen concerts and performance events, featuring the commissioned works and many transferred works from the existing repertoire.

We will run open workshops before the concerts for local musicians and composers and produce an innovative DVD on the project documenting the Integra activities and presenting the Integra environment through practical demos. The DVD will be distributed to all new music actors in Europe. We hope that the Integra environment will become a de facto standard for the preservation, composition and performance of music with live electronics. If the project will be successful, the repertoire of European contemporary music ensembles will grow accordingly and performances of music with live electronics will become more frequent, while forgotten works using obsolete technology will become again active agents in our musical life. Integra will also contribute to the creation of a new breed of highly mobile professional musicians: empowered by light, accessible and reliable technology, they will be able to travel and perform around Europe with their expanded repertoire, helping to bring down the barriers that still today prevent many musicians from using technology in the first place.


Fact Box

Integra – A European Composition and Performance Environment for Sharing Live Music Technologies is a €1,035,048, 3-year cooperation agreement part financed by the European Commission through the 2005 call of the Culture 2000 programme [ref 2005-849]. Started in September 2005, Integra is led by UCE Birmingham Conservatoire in the United Kingdom. The project partners are:

New Music Ensembles

Ensemble Ars Nova, Malmö
Athelas Sinfonietta, Copenhagen (co-organiser)
Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, Birmingham
BIT20 Ensemble, Bergen (co-organiser)
Court-circuit, Paris (co-organiser)

Research Centres
CIRMMT, McGill University, Montreal
Krakow Academy of Music, Krakow
La Kitchen, Paris
Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre, Vilnius
Malmö Academy of Music, Malmö (co-organiser)
NOTAM, Oslo
SARC, Queen’s University, Belfast

Association of European Conservatoires

The composers commissioned so far are:
Malin Bång, Sweden (Athelas Sinfonietta)
Natasha Barrett, Norway (Ensemble Ars Nova)
Andrea Cera, Italy (Court-circuit)
Tansy Davies, United Kingdom (BIT20 Ensemble)
Juste Janulyte, Lithuania (Birmingham Contemporary Music Group)

Integra project

Lamberto Coccioli, an Italian composer currently working as Head of Music Technology at Birmingham Conservatoire, is Integra’s Project Manager.

La sfida della complessità

Presentazione di una conferenza che ho tenuto su invito di Carmelo Piccolo e dell’organizzazione Eximia Forma nell’agosto del 1994.

* * *

La sfida della complessità: quale ruolo oggi per la musica colta?

In che modo la musica colta può interpretare la realtà, ed essere una voce autentica della nostra condizione?
Attraverso la comunicazione; la comunicazione è valida ed efficace quando esiste un rapporto vitale tra opera e pubblico.
Per non perdere questo rapporto è necessario attingere all’immenso bazar della storia, identificando le invarianti della trasmissione di un’idea musicale: non più un problema di linguaggio dunque, ma di dialettica tra attesa e sorpresa, e di creazione di una corrente emotiva.
Per risvegliare gli archetipi che sono in ciascuno di noi, e garantire il fluire del messaggio, dalla musica all’ascoltatore.

La sfida della complessità è la sfida del gusto, che nel repertorio gigantesco della storia e delle altre culture riesce ad isolare i segnali portatori di Senso e a dar loro nuova vita: creando delle costellazioni di significati non dall’interno, attraverso la costruzione di sistemi linguistici raffinatissimi, e in fondo solipsistici, ma dall’esterno, lasciando decantare frammenti, detriti delle culture-storie in organismi elastici, aperti al mondo e alla contaminazione, e controllati dal gusto.

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