The concert is just a few weeks away now, and everything has been sent to the ensemble. Apart from finishing the piece and struggling with the parts, in the last weeks I've also been involved in some other activities related to the ECPDP, which are worth mentioning here:
- I interviewed Marco Pedrazzini from Icarus Ensemble. We had a nice chat over the phone - topics included Romitelli's music, the present situation of Italian music, this year's ECPDP, etc. I'm now in the process of transcribing and translating the interview, which will be published here in the next few days.
- A business seminar for the four ECPDP composers from British institutions took place at the University of Huddersfield on 3 October. The session was opened by Graham MacKenzie, who gave advice on the best ways to establish relationships with festivals. This was followed by a two hour workshop with Elaine Gould from Faber Music, who gave us a lot of precious feedback on our scores and parts. The day was concluded by Nikki Cassidy, who discussed different approaches to self-promotion, mainly through the web. The whole seminar was chaired by Heidi Johnson.
- Some other good news: I've been contacted by the University of York Music Press, who offered to publish the scores written by the four UK-based ECPDP composers. I've also been asked to help with the Romitelli concert that's going to be played by Icarus on the 24 November: this is an honour for me and will definitely be the icing on the cake after the premiere on the 23 November!
The piece is almost finished now and very soon I'll send it to the ensemble - the deadline is the end of this month. I have to admit that, similarly to what I read in last year's blogs, I've been feeling under increasing pressure, basically being expected (or should I say expecting myself...?) to produce the best possible piece for such an important opportunity in my career. I don't remember having spent so much time rewriting and refining the material when composing any of my previous pieces.
Now that the piece is almost complete - well, I'll probably spend another ten days refining some bits and especially struggling with the parts - I'd like to write a few lines about it. The title I supikkjarìi means 'the abuses of power' in Sicilian, and is not so much referring to obvious and violent abuse (still, physical repression is becoming more and more fashionable in these days) as it is to a more subtle process of deterring potentially revolutionary instances by incorporating them into the ruling politico-economic system. This process is well described by such authors as Naomi Klein in No Logo or Slavoj Žižek in First as Tragedy, then as Farce. Klein shows how oppressed minorities gradually became the target of brands wanting to expand their market, so that the praise of diversity became part of the purchased commodity. Žižek goes a bit further and speaks about 'cultural capitalism': so, for instance, some groups come up with the claim that companies are responsible for innumerable ongoing atrocities at the expense of humankind and the environment, and then eventually manage to spread this consciousness to a quite large portion of the population? No worries, companies have got the solution: you pay an extra price and they promise they will take better care of the people and environment they exploit (or, at least, they'll do their best to make it look as though they're doing it). So what happens is that you, as a consumer, make up for the guilt inherent in the act of consumption by purchasing redemption as part of that very same act of consumption: 'It's all included in the price'. This is wonderfully explained in this video animation:
This process is eventually one of the recipes for the inhibition of dissent, probably more powerful than any direct physical form of repression, and is not only influencing our behaviour as purchasers, as described above, but is also likely to condition our choices as voters, mass-media spectators, etc.
So, for someone who's grown up in Italy, it's not hard to recall that, in the 90s and 2000s, anti-Berlusconi feelings were mainly exploited by Berlusconi's TV channels, that used to broadcast myriads of comedy shows with an openly satiric attitude towards him, thus attracting even the most radical parts of the public: while enjoying anti-regime satire we were thus creating profit for the ruler, basically making him and his allies more powerful and harder to overthrow (to give a better idea of the function of these TV shows, a parenthesis should be opened here about their farcical nature: according to the Russian philosopher Michail Bachtin, in fact, the carnivalesque derision of people in power is, in the end, an instrument of conservation of the power rather than an element of potential subversion).
Similarly, it's not hard to think about puppet parties, eventually in coalition with the mainstream political forces, created on purpose to attract, and basically rob, the votes of particular protest groups: those who are familiar with the long history of the struggle of Sicily (and, similarly, Sardinia and the continental South of Italy) against the central Italian politico-economic powers in demand of greater autonomy and less economic and infrastructural isolation may know what I'm talking about.
The piece is characterised by the alternation of moments of creation and moments of destruction by saturation/distorted replication etc. This alternation is facilitated by the co-existence, in the line-up, of electrical and acoustic instruments. In particular, I've used the sampler and various electric guitar and bass techniques, including an extensive recourse to the loop station, to create moments of sonic saturation that basically originate from the development of the material.
Compared to other recent pieces of mine, often characterised by a high level of fragmentation, this one is characterised by a more fluid transition between different sections.
We're approaching the end of July, it's been almost a month since the second and last workshop in Reggio Emilia with Icarus ensemble, and my piece is now due at the end of September.
First, a quick word about my background: my name is Marcello Messina, I'm a Sicilian composer based in Leeds, at present I'm doing a PhD in composition at the University of Leeds, but I have a past as a student of modern languages, literatures and philology (mainly Russian and other Slavonic languages).
The two workshops were really good, and that's why I decided to start this blog: in the next entries I'll post details about the musicians involved in the programme and about the piece I'm writing for them.