Saturday, 20 February 2016

A brief overview of Giorgio Sollazzi’s music.

Sometimes a composer’s shorter pieces are the most interesting, the musical intention is clear and each detail can be savoured for its contribution to the whole.  Like a short story there are fewer characters and situations to which the characters react. When Giorgio Sollazzi shared the work “Tribute to Ives” he offered an insight into his interests in a specific musical character and his own style of writing.
The oboe part played by Roberto Manilla is the dominant factor in the music and the electronics take a secondary role, the additional sounds are sparingly used. The progression of the music grows from a short four note figure to successions of short phrases (which do merge to form longer statements as the music unfolds), these are underpinned by the electronic sounds which contrast the oboe textures and sonority.  There is little interaction between the two layers but they complement each other.  The electronic sounds also mark the progression of the music defining the subsections with sfz chords and a short passage which is a cadence to conclude the tribute. Where a composer takes his sources for electronic sounds is a personal and private matter, the essential point being how it contributes to the whole.  There are indications though that the material, which adds drama through its use of movement across the stereo image and its tremolo rhythms, is a sample of music (not taken from the oboe) there being sounds which suggest spiccato string sounds, this short passage is highly effective against the legato of the oboe.
Given the title there would be few listeners of contemporary music who would fail to make some connection with the Unanswered Question. The notes to Ives’ score suggest that an oboe may take the trumpet part. There is an immediate connection with the movement of the trumpet phrase and Sollazzi’s oboe phrases which tempt one to ask the question how similar are the two parts. The Ives trumpet part is very limited a five note group with a single pitch modification in the repeat, the Sollazzi phrases, as stated, extend to longer groups until the close where two clear events emerge, a chromatic rise and the fall of a fifth and a descending scale which leads to a closing figure on E, B, C, B which complements the electronic sounds.
When taken as individual phrases there are high levels of similarity in the pitch content of successive phrases which then expand or contract, taking a sample from the 1st main section:
024 69
0245 8
0235 7 (x2)

This may or may not be part of a larger plan in the design of the music, but what it does is to provide a link between phrases as a gradual evolution of a specific figure, and that can be heard.
Formally I hear the music as being in four sections, the solo oboe, the agitated electronic and oboe section concluded by the sfz chord (approx. 1’ 30”), the third section with the spiccato like electronic sounds where the phrases extend, this also closing with a sfz chord, and the final chromatic rise (chord) cantabile section and cadence. Timing these section (approximately) we have two outer sections of 44” and 45” and two inner sections of 54” and 53” giving a total duration of 3’16”.

Listening to “Freud and the Moon” presents in under four minutes a sonic drama. The main argument is a melodic line for a virtual instrument. This solo material presents the first of two levels the second and more complex level being a series of gestures in the form of electronically processed sounds. This contrast taken with the title suggests a programmatic element, an introverted, or at least reflective figure, disturbed by recollections of experiences, both pleasant and disruptive. Freud, as the father of psychoanalysis, fits well into this simple interpretation of the music, Freud being the observer noting the reactions of a patient. Does the music offer the type and range of emotional responses that support this view?
The electronics offer the listener a constantly changing set of sounds, sometimes near vocal, sometimes bell-like, and apart from one fortissimo outburst the effect is subtle, the sounds produced on the edge of our recognition. The musical effect of half-recognised yet familiar sounds is to draw us into the minutiae of the textures. At the very opening the electronic sounds literally call on the listener with a sharp demanding tone and up to the 1.40 mark have a near human quality, this gives way to a more aggressive, explosive passage, after which the music becomes reflective. In this more subdued section sounds are concordant and recollect music that is 19th century in style, almost like listening to an old style gramophone player reproducing a slow dance.
The sense of observing action on a stage is heightened at one point by the use of spatial setting, the music travels as if a procession was in place, if it were a quadrophonic recording I feel certain it would encompass the front to rear of the listening area in its journey.
The virtual instrument has different qualities according to its register, string like tones in the bass and gentle bell-like tones in the upper, the light use of vibrato again suggests a vocal character. Its song, like in many of the composer's works, ranges widely with well-spaced intervals so that quite simple harmonic material takes on a contemporary character.
The question was asked if the music supports a dramatic interpretation, I see and hear no reason to discard the view, indeed I would be tempted to suggest that this would work well in the context of a semi-staged music drama, and should this be one work in a series of such reflections the time scale would be appropriate.

There are many Sollazzi works to hear on YouTube in addition to the six selected on our blog and among these is a short piano piece called “Gem Crystals”. The work opens with a succession of chords over the full range of the piano. Semitone dissonances form a sharp edge to the opening of the music, but as the music progresses rhythmic figures created through repeated notes become more prominent and the music takes on a different character suggesting some of the textures we more readily associate with late Beethoven or even the way that Ives quotes Beethoven. English readers of the blog may be surprised to know that the performer Marcella Coletti was nine years of age at the time, so much for contemporary music being inaccessible. For those who appreciate the range of sounds and rhythms of this work would enjoy his Piano Sonata’s third movement in particular.

There is so much more to explore in this music that I have already exceeded the usual 1K word limit that we impose on ourselves.  I shall leave Nurtan to reply to some of the observations made.

To complete this short overview I will post some answers given by Giorgio to my enquiries over the past few weeks:

"Many UK musicians think of Italian music as very lyrical, is a singing quality important to you?"
I can say that I love "bel canto", Verdi, Puccini etc, we, as Italians, eat the lyric with mother's milk. But I don't compose thinking about singing quality, maybe something enters in my music unconsciously.

"The music I have heard is dramatic, the music consists of many gestures, like an actor on the stage. Do you compose with gestures in mind rather than use a matrix to organise your music?"
I try to work my sounds by means of musical intelligence and sensibility, so, yes there are gestures and a matrix. The matrix can be complex, but I want my listeners to hear emotions in the architecture.

"The music you share on you tube is relatively short, have you written any large scale music?"
Yes, I wrote pieces for large orchestra like "Concerto per tre violini e orchestra", "L'opera della terra e della luna", "Cronolalia" etc. I composed these works during the 1980s.

"It is clear that you appreciate music of the previous centuries, does any one composer influence the way you compose?"
I love Beethoven so much that when I was young I believe - hoped - of being his reincarnation. I 'm not sure Beethoven's music influences the way I compose, but I try to have the same strong sense of expression. Other ideal teachers are Ives and Nono.

"Have you used direct quotation from other composers in your music?"
No, I haven't. I don't like that method because only Berg, Stravinsky or a genius can do it well.

Are there any particular instruments that you favour?”
I particularly love those instruments that have a deep sound like the cello, double bass, bassoon and bass clarinet.

"What is your view of musicians who use FM synthesis?"
I love new technologies and how they open the making of music to everyone.

"I like your use of space in music, is it an important structural part of your work?"
Yes, it is. In the past we had great examples: Andrea and Giovanni Gabrieli during the fifteenth century used space so creatively in their music. After Stockhausen I think every composer must use, when it is possible, space as structural part in their music.

Freud and the Moon                                           
Evoked Potential Cult                                          
Forse neanche il futuro (Perhaps even the future)
Piano Sonata the first movement                     
Gelida torre (Cold tower)                                   
For Maurizio Pollini                                             

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