Posts Tagged ‘Intersections’

Music for starry skies, by Alfonso Alberti

John Cage was an ingenious master of intersections. Once he was also on the verge of a very peculiar intersection with gastronomy, when he dreamed of composing a piece where he was cooking notes and the audience were eating them. That piece, clearly, remained in the world of dreams, but there are many notable cases where his music is intertwined with a variety of other disciplines.Astronomy, for example – or, better, astral geography. In the Seventies, when many composer were still creating post-serial composition rules, he used to take maps of the starry sky, lay on them transparent music paper and “compose”. A star is a tone, a constellation becomes a series of tones. And then, with a number of details in need of specification (should this celestial body match with a single tone or a chord? A chord of how many tones? Natural or altered tones?) he used to browse the I Ching, the popular Chinese oracle, and through its responses refine the whole. A “whole” that was the Etudes Australes for solo piano, thirty-two pieces collected in four books, totaling many hours of music, where the star map becomes phantasmagorical tones constellations, the two hands restlessly swirling across the keyboard…
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Music and calligraphy: Toshio Hosokawa’s percussions

The East is different. This simple reality is often clouded by the phenomenon everybody knows as globalization. The outlines of cultures are blurred and the differences softened, the amazement in front of what is far from us stops and we have the impression of knowing everything of everybody: in the West we are living in the era of conversions to Buddhism, of the wild commercialization of Zen philosophy, of geishas tales and so on. The face of Japan, by example, increasingly appears, with its big cities and multinational conglomerates, less different from the western counterparts. That notwithstanding, the East is really different (and the Zen is far more than a lovely reading for commuters), and also the intersections that happen there have something special.

As an example: the Nagasaki-born composer Toshio Hosokawa reports that when in the Noh drama a musician is preparing to play the tsuzumi, a percussion instrument, he brings forth the right hand, draws a circle in the air and only at that point actually generates the sound by hitting the instrument. The ensuing sound is laden with a peculiar tension, that begins through the gesture that comes before the real sound. The performer, in the preliminary gesture, lets out an exclamation, and this cry helps to raise the tension. As an outcome, the sound and the preceding silence are not each rival to the other, whereas the sound somehow takes his roots in the preliminary gesture…
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Sylvano Bussotti’s Pictograms

We often talk about notes. Overbearing subject, the note: a measurement, an exact frequency, a recognizable and codable object, that would qualify as the main parameter and overshadow everything else. Then we can refer to sound, and in this way we bring to light what was concealed at the side of the note, and beyond it. But it would be worth talking about the gesture – which causes that sound; and about the body, which makes that gesture.

Body and gesture (and therefore also theater) are pivotal concepts in Sylvano Bussotti’s poetics, a creator hanging between music and visual arts. In the fourth of the historical Five Pieces for David Tudor, a real drawing set in a pentagrams’ system, the double caption sheds a light on the double personality of the author: “1949 drawing” and “piano adoption: March 27, 1959”.

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The Two Planetoids of Maurits C. Escher and Federico Gardella

Maurits C. Escher (1898-1972), the Dutch artist, was a famous master of optical illusions. Little men who climb up and up and up and then, without ever turning around, it comes out that they go down and down and down. People who, seen from a certain point of view, are normally walking and, seen from another perspective, are instead hanging upside down. And so on. But Escher was also a master of mirrors and parallel words that reflect each other. In Three Worlds, on a very narrow gap the real presence of what is just there (leafs), the filtered image of what is underneath (fishes) and the reflected image of what is overhead (branches) are intertwined. In Three Spheres II, the three spheres reflect each other, reflect the writing desk (that in its turn reflects them – and so they reflect also their reflection on the desk) and finally give us also a reflection of the artist who is drawing them.
In Double Planetoid, there are two imaginary tetrahedron-shaped and interweaved celestial bodies. One, with a completely smooth surface, on each of his four edges accommodates a fortress with a fanciful outline, fully equipped with tower and flag…
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You can listen to Federico Gardella’s Di Rami e Radici, performed by Alfonso Alberti inside the concert:

Alfonso Alberti – Piano Music and Visual Arts – 1
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Intersections, by Alfonso Alberti

No German Sky: Death in Venice according to Gérard Pesson

This time, many are the intersecting characters: a novella, Death in Venice, by Thomas Mann (1911-1912); the same-name movie directed by Luchino Visconti (1971); the Adagietto of the Fifth Symphony by Gustav Mahler (1901-1904); the life of the German poet August von Platen (1796-1835); and last a choir piece of the French composer Gérard Pesson, Kein deutscher Himmel (1997).

Let’s trace the story and stitch together all the pieces…
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Intersections, by Alfonso Alberti

“The rose is without ‘why'”: Angelus Silesius and Niccolò Castiglioni’s Mysticism

Dulce refrigerium, sechs geistliche Lieder für Klavier (1984) is the place, within the piano production of Niccolò Castiglioni (1932-1996), where the spirituality of the Milan-born composer is more fully expressed.

To get into the meaning of this spirituality we ought to say that it is deeply rooted in mysticism, and especially in that of the German poet and mystic Angelus Silesius (1624-1677).

The rose is without “why”
She blooms because she blooms
She doesn’t care for herself
She doesn’t ask if anybody sees her

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You can listen to Niccolò Castiglioni’s Dulce refrigerium, performed by Alfonso Alberti, inside the concert:
Alfonso Alberti – Ritratto di Niccolò Castiglioni
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Intersections, by Alfonso Alberti

Telling stories without rhyme nor reason

Arts history is full of powerful sentences, prohibitions, tabulae rasae. As in the golden age of Surrealism, when André Breton forbid even the composition of novels. No sooner said than done. Should the surrealists never write novels? Then Max Ernst, artist who at the time was very close to the Surrealism, in 1929 publishes one, La femme 100 têtes [The woman a hundred heads].
Red-handedness notwithstanding, in a sense there is no crime, because the said novel isn’t a novel. Not in the realist sense, at least, that is a novel reflecting reality according to traditional logic, with a beginning and an end, with well outlined characters whose whereabouts contribute to the building of a plot.
In La femme 100 têtes, the narrative element is completely removed. It is a “picture book”: a long sequence of printings with subtitles, organized according to the rules of the surrealist automatic association…
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You can listen to La femme 100 têtes, by George Antheil, performed by Alfonso Alberti inside the concert:

Alfonso Alberti – Piano Music and visual Arts – 1
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Intersections, by Alfonso Alberti

The consequences of a totally-white painting

The Fifties in New York were an extraordinary time, due to the intertwining (human and artistic) life courses of great musicians and great visual artists.
Once, in those years, Morton Feldman, the composer, visited Bob Rauschenberg’s studio and came out of it with one of his Black Paintings, paid sixteen dollars and some change – all that he had in his pockets. The painting was hauled on John Cage’s Ford, the same car that, in another occasion, Cage would use for “inking” a painting, also by Rauschenberg, passing over it with blue ink-soaked tires.
The Black Paintings were all black; but Rauschenberg created also paintings that were completely white. Not partly, or almost completely, white. No, white – that’s all. One of the early reviewers of the 1953 exhibition, in which Eleanor Ward showed the White Paintings, was really Cage, who declared, fancy that, that the white paintings were not exactly white. Instead, they were “airports of the lights, shadows and particles”…
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