Ensemble Intercontemporain - Choir Accentus / Axe 21
Saturday September 25, at 8:00 p.m.
Teatro alle Tese – Arsenale
conductor Susanna Mälkki
narrating voice Fosco Perinti
Fausto Romitelli (1963-2004)
Professor Bad Trip: Lesson I for eight performers and electronics (1998, 14’)
Professor Bad Trip: Lesson II for ensemble (1998, 17’)
Professor Bad Trip: Lesson III for ensemble and recorded sounds (2000, 12’)
Luciano Berio (1925-2003) Laborintus II for voice, instruments and tape (1965, 35’)
A world-renowned signature ensemble, the Intercontemporain was founded in 1976 by Pierre Boulez to provide performers for contemporary music and the flexibility in the formation of the musicians that this type of music required. Since 1995 the ensemble has been based in the Cité de la Musique in Paris and since 2006 it has been directed by Susanna Mälkki from Finland, who has conducted many prestigious orchestras – the Berliner Philharmoniker, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Münchner Philharmoniker, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the NDR Sinfonie Orchester, the Wiener Symphoniker, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France.
For the concert in Venice, the Intercontemporain will be joined by Accentus/Axe 21, a group founded by Laurence Equilbey and dedicated to singing a cappella, particularly in its contemporary form; in 2003 the group organized a Biennale dedicated to vocal art in collaboration with the Cité de la Musique. The concert centres on two pieces that confront two authors and two eras: Luciano Berio with Laborintus II, which dates back to the mid-Sixties; and Fausto Romitelli, one of the most conscious and critical voices of his time, with Professor Bad Trip, a trilogy written at the end of the Nineties, when electronic research spread to all the musical genres, stripping cultured music of its monopoly.
Berio began composing Laborintus II in 1963, when he was at Mills College in Oakland (California) for a long teaching engagement. Here he worked with the avant-garde in all types of music, including jazz and rock, engaging in musical experimentations with his students and former students; all these experiences would reflect on the composition of this opera, which he finished in 1965 and which won the Prix Italia the following year. And it was again at Mills College that Laborintus II, a joint commission from French Radio and Television and Italian Rai Television to celebrate the 700th anniversary of the birth of Dante, was performed in its complete version with Berio conducting, after the world premiere in Paris in 1965, also conducted by the author. The libretto by Edoardo Sanguineti, who in 1956 had published a collection of poems entitled Laborintus, like in a Medieval catalogue throws Dante in with the Bible, Eliot, Pound and naturally Sanguineti. “Sometimes evoking the spirit of Monteverdi’s madrigals (the Canzonetta shortly before the beginning), sometimes reminiscent of improvisation in the style of Sixties free jazz, Laborintus IIbrings together an atypical vocal ensemble (three female voices, eight actors, one narrating voice) with an instrumental group composed mostly of woods, brass and percussions (the only string instruments are two cellos and a double bass), completing the richness of the sound with electronics. This ‘very open’ piece, ‘a sort of theatre for the ears’ according to Berio, retains the power and vitality of the ‘complex and infinite proliferations’ that Berio would discover years later in Mahler’s music” (from the program notes by Pierre Michel).
“I think that what is most interesting from a musical point of view are the worlds of sound created by ‘popular’ electronic music, from the avant-garde of techno. These musicians work in a way that did not exist before. And just as electronic music has changed the sound of the orchestra, depriving it of the typical sound that I would define as ‘expressionist’, on the other hand the orchestra makes electric sound come alive”. Passed away prematurely, Fausto Romitelli is one of those composers that has always addressed the changes brought by technology to our way of perceiving – as in Audiodrome, based on Cronenberg’s Videodrome – and was involved in research into different cultural and musical contexts. He is the author of a musical project for the anarchic punk group Attentat Sonore, and of a tribute to Jim Morrison, the lead singer of the Doors, a piece for soprano, electric guitar and 15 musicians.
Similarly, in the triptych presented by Intercontemporain, Professor Bad Trip, Romitelli intends to “escape” from the hortus conclusus of so much cultured music, composed of cultivated sounds with “no body and no blood”, and to do so he relies on an investigation of the mechanisms of perception in hallucinated states. The means were the works composed by Belgian surrealist writer Henri Michaux under the influence of mescaline – L’infini turbulent, Connaissances par les gouffres and Misérable miracle - in which Romitelli finds a correspondence between the writer’s visions and his sound imagination.
“What is prevalent in Professor Bad Trip – writes Romitelli – is the hypnotic ritual aspect, the taste for deformation and for the artificial: obsessive repetitions, constant and insistent accelerations of materials and tempos subjected to drops and distortions to the point of saturation, white noise, catastrophe; a constant drift towards chaos, objects pronounced and immediately liquefied; unsustainable speed and density… These are the controversial teachings of Professor Bad Trip who, obviously, loves psychedelic and progressive rock, the avant-garde of the techno universe. (…) Boundless energy, a violent visionary impact, the constant search for new sonorities that can open the “gates of perception”: these aspects of the most innovative rock seem to meet the expressive concerns of certain contemporary composers. I have tried to integrate one particular aspect of rock’s experimentation with sound into my composition: the complex interaction between an electro-acoustic treatment of the instrumental sound and gesture; I have no interest in the harmonic and melodic structure of rock, which has never been able to relinquish certain tonal or modal stereotypes”.
Fausto Romitelli (Gorizia – Italy, 1963-2004) – From the Conservatorio “Giuseppe Verdi” in Milan to the Accademia Chigiana with Franco Donatoni, to the Scuola Civica in Milan, to IRCAM in Paris, where he later worked between 1993 and 1995 with the team of Représentations Musicales as an experimental composer, Fausto Romitelli won international recognition. His works are performed by famous ensembles – Intercontemporain, Itinéraire, Nieuw Ensemble, 2e2m, Recherche, Caput – and in many musical festivals and institutions – the World Music Days of the SIMC in Frankfurt, Stockholm and Lausanne, Gaudeamus in Amsterdam, Ars Musica in Brussels, Gulbenkian in Lisbon, Steirischen Herbst in Graz, Centre Georges-Pompidou, Radio-France, summer sessions at Darmstadt, Settimana musicale in Siena, Nuove sincronie in Milan. He showed an early interest in the experiences of French spectral music, in particular the music of Hugues Dufourt and Gérard Grisey, to which he dedicated the second piece of the cycle Domeniche alla periferia dell’Impero (1995-1996, 2000), Romitelli also pursued his personal research outside the boundaries of the cultural avant-garde “concentrating eloquent expressive content in his music and violent sound impact with a complex formal structure”. (R. Milanaccio). His last work was An Index of Metals (2003).