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photo: Veera Vehkasalo

Hide my head I want to drown my sorrow

For amplified ensemble and live electronics






Ensemble l'Arsenale, Composit 2012

Andrea Mancianti

The general idea was guided by the concept of sonic debris, a residual sonic element surviving the destruction of an initial gesture. My goal was to render this in a musical sense, without loosing completely the “external” references of memory, transfiguration and loss, keeping them ambiguous and, more importantly, coherent and “meaningful” in musical terms.

This reference lays in a very specific ritual, happening often during religious processions, especially the ones repeating the via dolorosa in southern Italy during easter's Good Friday. The ritual, in the mournful environment of the procession, requires a candle to catch fire by tilting it over an already lit one, then, becoming the lighter for the next candle in line, the fire is passed on, in a chain of ritual acts. In order to create a sonic equivalent of this process, I compared the idea of lighting to a recording/playback action. For this I used four cheap megaphones that have the characteristic of being able to record and loop back a small fraction of sound, captured through its microphone. Due to the poor quality of its components, the megaphone performs a quite dramatic timbral transformation, that works both for its specific directional diffusion pattern as well as for its referential gestural and sonic properties.

The whole piece develops its internal dramaturgy by operating a continuous degradation over an initial musical gesture, temporally slowed down and torn apart multiple times and with various techniques, to the point that the slowing speed hits almost a frozen state. Here the whole idea of destruction and decay shifts from a purely “musical” realm to one that includes both sonic and “theatrical” aspects in a sort of ritual. The violinist stops playing, lays the violin, stands up and holding the megaphone's microphone close to the bass clarinet's bell, starts recording, and then looping a short fragment of its sound. Is then the turn of the viola player to imitate the same action, but instead of picking up the direct clarinet sound, he rather samples the sound produced by the first megaphone, adding to it a new layer of artefacts. As soon as the viola player starts playing back the loop, the violinist leaves the stage holding the looping megaphone in his hand, as slowly as in a procession around the audience, to occupy the space between the two frontal loudspeakers of the quadraphonic configuration. The cellist then samples the second megaphone and with the loop running, the violist also leaves the stage to reach his place between front-left and rear-left speakers. The double bass player finally records the cellist's megaphone, the cellist leaves the stage to place himself between the rear speakers, then double bass player leaves too, reaching the other string players around the audience, between rear-right and front-right loudspeaker. At a signal from the conductor, the piece ends, after an almost hypnotizing ritual whose length depends entirely on the size and shape of the hall and the speed at which the whole ritual is performed.

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