Spring 2003 A4 40 pages
TRIUMVIRAT (Deutsch-Rock feature)
out of print / sold out! - 1 copy available
Example article extract
a look at the legacy of Futurism and the Avant-Garde in Italian new-music
Alan seeks out the strangest types of Spaghetti!
Further to comments from numerous customers and readers, especially those that like the weirder, not so much rock, but more cross-generic musics, here's an article that explores that region of Italian music taking into account the legacy of the Futurist movement and the serious avant-garde underground.
Note that some of the texts in this article are extracted from the forthcoming "A Fistful of Spaghetti" book.
the Legacy of The Futurists...
One of Italy's best kept secrets is the musical subculture that has grown alongside rock, a less fashionable music relating to the avant-garde more so than rock, jazz or folk, although this music may combine all these factors. I've heard this talked of as "Nuova Futurista", with exponents like: Franco Battiato, Claudio Rocchi, Opus Avantra, Pierrot Lunaire, and a wealth of lesserknowns. It's a genre also explored, on a more serious level, by the Cramps Records label.
The importance of the Futurist movement, which started in 1909 with the first manifesto from Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, should not be overlooked when examining the Italian music scene. The sense of adventure they put into all forms of art had a profound effect. Futurism in painting broke the rules of conventional art, giving movement, power or bizarre composure to otherwise normal subject matter. For this reason, the art of Luigi Russolo (for instance) is still strikingingly modern and "futurist" almost a century on. Futurism extended to poetry, speech as art, phonetic "sound poetry", and in music Futurism saw experiments in cutting up scored compositions and then pasting them back together at random, and then attempting to play the results. They also fused disparate musics together, Luigi Russolo created bizarre noise machines, and many worked with sound in its primitive form as a musical tool. But, above all, Futurism (like Dadaism or Surrealism) looked at new ways of doing things, avoiding old rules and conventions.
The legacy of such innovation lives on to this day, as many more recent sound explorers attempt to explore similar avenues, and that's why you'll find a number of entries in our forthcoming book "A Fistful of Spaghetti" on such artists as Luigi Russolo, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, and others, as although they may not seem at all connected to the subject of progressive rock per-se, their influence on the scene is indisputable. For a good early example of Futurism in Italian rock check-out the aptly legendary Le Stelle Di Mario Schifano's eponymous 1967 album, and be surprised by its sheer invention!
For more on all this, check-out the excellent web-site at: www.unknown.nu/futurism/manifesto.html.
Primarily a classical avant-gardist, and also in that he moved base to the USA, Berio is peripheral to the Italian scene, but also very important. Along with Bruno Maderna he hosted one of the first electronic music studios in Italy in the late-1950's and 1960's, and he really pushed against the boundaries in new forms of sonic expression.
Particularly famous are Luciano's vocal/tape works made with the extraordinary classical singer Cathy Berberian. These were collected on the ACOUSMATRIX 7, LUCIANO BERIO / BRUNO MADERNA CD. Especially stunning is the 21 minute Visage, in which the vocal expressions run amok with extraordinary skill and panache, all cut, spliced and affected in the way only Berio seemed to know how. Pure Futurism, in spirit, even if it is not widely thought of as such. What is heard here relates to both the Futurists and much of the weirder vocal work you'll hear by Italians in the 70's underground. Bruno Maderna's recordings on this CD are also excellent, but are not so relevant to this article.
Musica Elettronica Viva
These (aka MEV) were initially an ensemble of American jazz musicians and avant-garde explorers that went over to Italy in the mid-1960's, settled in Rome and stayed there. Although their name translated as "Live Electronic Music" very little of MEV was detectable as electronic, mostly it was the use of processing and gadgetry that accounted for the electronics (although Richard Tietelbaum added synthesizers in later incarnations of the band).
MEV can be seen as a key figure in the Italian scene in that they drew international attention to Italy, and that as the band evolved and changed they also acted as the springboard for Italian avant explorers like Andrea Centazzo and Alvin Curran. Ironically the most electronic MEV album was LEAVE THE CITY, recorded by an entirely different version of the band from France in 1970. The other most interesting by-product was Alvin Curran's extraordinary debut CANTI E VEDUTE DEL GIARDINO MAGNETICO made in 1973, which saw Alvin playing synthesizer, percussion, voice, wind instruments, etc., and coming up with an album that sounded totally Italian (in the Battiato, Leprino, Stalteri vein), definitely strange and Futurist.
Another classical avant-gardist, from the same sort of "school" as Berio, Luigi Nono has explored everything from straight classical to the totally bizarre. Since the 1960's he's certainly been an influence on the stranger classical explorations in rock and the new-music underground. However, one of his finest releases is A CARLO SCARPA/A PIERRE/GUAI AI GELIDI MOSTRI released on LP in Germany, 1990. In this you'll hear all sorts of influences on the music of acts like Opus Avantra, Pierrot Lunaire, and many of the stranger elements of Italian classical rock.
More correctly "Gruppo d'impovvisazione Nuova Cosonanza", this international ensemble were superficially in the same field as MEV (or Britain's AMM Music) but were far more footed in the European avant-garde (not jazz). Their most famous member was Ennio Morricone (other Italians included Mario Bertoncini, Franco Evangelisti, Walter Branchi) along with other notorieties: Roland Kayn, Frederic Rzewski and Jesus Villa Rojo.
The CD release 1967-1975 amounts to the finest document of their work, showcasing their music as something that is "not quite anything specifically" notably the pieces used in film scores, and the sonic collision fabrics. Also of interest, but much more seriously avant-garde is MUSICA SU SCHEMI notable for its Omaggio a Giacinto Scelsi, another key Italian avant-garde explorer active since the 60's, who can be discovered via the CD release GIACINTO SCELSI (Edition RZ 1014).
sidesteps from the undeground
Albergo Intergalattico Spaziale
The "Intergalactic Space Hotel" were primarily: Mino Di Martino (ex-I Giganti) and his wife Terra Di Benedetto (a 60's pop singer) amounting to most unlikely of experimental bands. Originally formed in 1970, and then re-instigated in 1977 (after the demise of Franco Battiato's Telaio Magnetico of which they were an integral part) all they had done so far had been undocumented, so they decided to record and issue an LP themselves (a very limited pressing, sold at concerts and locally only). The eponymous sole album is of that genre including: Pierrot Lunaire, Opus Avantra (or more recently acts like Dead Can Dance or Mauve Sideshow), in that it pits a surreal female vocalist against an avant-garde and rock hybrid. The results are a mysterious music that, despite being two decades old, is still so fresh and new. Deep gothic and strange, the oddness that pervades is that legacy from Futurism, with the focus on Mino's multi-instrumental work (mostly keyboards) and Terra's hauntingly beautiful voice, it's a kind of otherworldly folk-classical hybrid that defies any simple classification.
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