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15 Questions to Antonio della Marina

img  Tobias

Hi! How are you? Where are you?
Hi Tobias, I’m fine, thank you. I’m here at home in Udine, in the North-east of Italy.   

What’s on your schedule right now?
Usual things: some performances, the occasional teaching, promotion, finishing my next CD and planning a tour. A lot of work.  

What or who was your biggest influence as an artist? Do you see yourself as part of a certain tradition or as part of a movement?
I surely learned a lot from the New York avant-garde mainstreams of the sixties. Most of what they did and do is still alive in the music of today. From that time on, sound gained a completely new freedom and it’s still around confronting and interacting with new technologies and topics. Musically I’ve been influenced a lot by the minimalist scene. I was just speaking about this with Charlemagne Palestine a few days ago, all the minimalist composers somehow hate the word “minimalism”, but to me, whatever you call it, it’s been a real revelation, fertile and clear. Other influences and stimuli came more recently from young composers like John Grzinich, Paulo Raposo, Klaus Filip… being in thouch with artists and practices around Europe tought me a lot. Let me quote another artist who is not famous, but he is very important to me for his precious gifts in terms of discussions and teaching: Furio Ersetti and his wife Lilli, they live in a very nice house hidden and surrounded by bamboo trees where Alessandra and I truly love to go. I play for them sometimes.  Part of a certain tradition? Well, I make music using (and I’m definitely influenced by) digital technology, which puts me somewhere in the modern western-born culture. Starting from this, up to the use of sound as a matter, its effects on human perception, its interaction with space, enviroment and architecture, structures and generating processes... I’m sure I’m not alone, but don’t ask me how to call it. At present I belong to those artists who believe that sound is more important than the performer. Is there a movement for that?   

What’s your view on the music scene at present? Is there a crisis?
Absolutely not if you mean from a creative point of view. I see a lot of good things and movements around, probably more than few years ago. The crisis is somewhere else in the process of musical  production/fruition. Apparently it’s like we produce more than people digest, but it’s not.A wider range of choices as possible should be offered by media instead of pushing the same best-seller product rehandled every time. Bio-diversity (art-diversity, music-diversity) should be supported by insitutions much more than they actually do. Here in Italy for example there are very few national radio program in which DJs can decide the playlist. Many often it is super-imposed (due to agreements with majors, sponsorizations, etc) and this considerably slows down the overall taste developement.

What does the term „new“ mean to you in connection with music?
Well, “new” in music is when the experience of listening gives you something you never felt before.  

How do you see the relationship between sound and composition?
Ah, this is a very interesting point. To compose is simply to put things together (can be sounds, colors, furnitures, anything). It doesn’t matter how many “objects” you work with, the act of composing is intentional, even if you just put one single straight recorded sound on a CD. That single choiche is already a composition because you put one sound on a silent background and that’s an act that generates a product. It can be good or bad but that’s what it is. The same can be said when you have different objects which you want to organize in a bigger structure. What you do, the way you put elements together is the compositional process. I could say that sound is the matter, composition is the given shape, or the process that drives and generates the overall shape.  Example: if we say “ssss” we produce a sound. Same with “ooo”, “uuu”, “nnnnn” and “d”. Now let’s do a composition: “Ssssooou uu un  nn n   nnd d  d  d  d dd   s?    soOOUNNsund snduu nnn?   n  nd   d    Dsd  o    ooo        u  n dd d soundD n s!“ ok, it is not a masterpiece, but I hope it helps.  

How strictly do you separate improvising and composing?
This is improvising: jhf fhjdjhfuierushlkadhfhjkfsbbbb    fjdj    skjf   fhjd    dico quello che mi pare jjjklfjjjdfoij   sh  jhdhkdh   djdhks  diidid  opof    a  ecco una        frase kjhfhhj   fjdkl f  f  f    qwe   fdiuyf stop! Up here I posted an improvvisation. In the very moment you read it, it becomes a composition. In other words, improvising to me is complementary to composition, it is a sub-category of composition. You can put some improvisation in a composition, but you cannot put a composed piece in an improvisation piece, because then it’s no longer an improvisation. (of course you can quote a phrase from an evergreen in the middle of a freely improvised piece, but this is again just improvisation). At the same time I can hardly immagine a  solo improvisation with absolutely no compositional rules as reference. When you improvise you organize phrases, dinamics, developments, ecc. In other words this is to put elements together. The only difference is that you do it on the fly, directly reacting on the situation. The way you do that, or better, what’s behind an improvvisation is the compositional process, that is personal, intentional and comes first, on an upper level. Improvising is a performance, composition is the structure and the reasoning around the music that stays behind the performance.  

What constitutes a good live performance in your opinion? What’s your approach to performing on stage?
To me a good performance is direct and physical event. Every musician know that these vibrations exist.  A good performance is when I can forget myself, go deep into the sound and enjoy it. It’s like a love experience, when I play and I feel well, I’m in a sort of trance, that’s a gold moment and a very calm place to stay. It’s very difficult for me to stay in front of an audience, sometime I loose the contact with what I’m playing and that’s horrible.  

A lot of people feel that some of the radical experiments of modern compositions can no longer be qualified as “music”. Would you draw a border – and if so, where?
Ah! Categorizations! To me it’s music and that’s all. Music is what we make it, so.. You do what you want with you ears. Moreover my main project is named “fades”, so don’t talk to me about borders, they’re very very hard to find. 

Are “serious” and “popular” really two different types of music or just empty words without a meaning?
Definitions and categorizations always give troubles. Definitions are borders, like you said, and boundaries are always troubled places. If we go on this way we’ll never come out, we just stuck on the wrong point.  There are people who can’t live without borders because they feel lost. But I believe it’s good to let all things penetrate one each other. Serious can become popular and vice versa. What about Mozart? is he serious or popular? Let’s put it this way: popular is when the message is directed to a mass of people, serious is when the music talks to you privately.  

Do you feel an artist has a certain duty towards anyone but himself? Or to put it differently: Should art have a political/social or any other aspect apart from a personal sensation?
Art actually IS a veichle for meanings. But I wouldn’t speak in terms of duty. It simply comes up, it’s a reaction, it is like a sensor in the system. I mean the duty should not be the starting point. Personally I dislike any art-form that tells me what to do or what to think. What is good and what is bad. It has a bad influence on me and makes me anxious. I prefer when music makes me wonder, offering me a chance I can play with or even not.   

True or false: People need to be educated about  music, before they can really appreciate it.
I have a story to tell about this. Some years ago I used to rehearse at night in the office where I was employed at the University of Bologna. It was a quiet place in a multimedia studio, with hardware etcetera, perfect for my needs. I was experimenting with sinewaves, a kind of music not easy to connect with. It happened that some of my collegues had to spend some nights up due to a deadline, so they were forced to listen to my sound exploration. I remember they were quite skeptical about what I was doing and it took a while before one of them came to me and said “oh, now I understand what’s your music about”. What I mean is, just like every other sense-related thing, music needs to be experienced before it can be appreciated. Some music takes more time, some other less time, and there are people who simply don’t ask for something different. They just don’t need it.  More than “educated about music” I would say people need to be open to music. To be open is a very hard goal. Probably there’s nothing to explain, but there’s a lot to listen.   

Imagine a situation in which there’d be no such thing as copyright and everybody were free to use musical material as a basis for their own compositions – would that be an improvement to the current situation?
Which kind of improvement? Which kind of copyright? Isn’t copyright dead already? Are we talking about art? From the artistic point of view the improvement is already on, and from years now. Just one name for all: John Oswald. He had many troubles with the majors in terms of copyright violation, but it is clear that what he does with Plunderphonics is an alive pure artistic act.  I thought “art” and “law” live in two separate worlds, in this case it’s very interesting how the latter is part of John’s work. It’s curious in Italy we translate “author’s right” instead of copyright. So the point is when a “creative” act or just a “copy” act is made. We live surrounded by digital material, all is sample, we live “in” the digital world, so it’s simply unavoidable to use it, and it’s amazing. Of course we need respect. It’s good (also from a cultural perspective) to quote the original source, and it must be evident and clear that something has been takenfrom the original material, that  something “new” is achieved. Personally I don’t use any sampled material, at the moment I don’t find it interesting, I prefer to create by myself all the sounds I use, but I’m very happy about this spread of material on the internet. To me art has to do with been “alive” and “creative”, and it’s not so “reproduceable”, like someone said. A concert is not a CD, I give my music in bits for free with no problem at all, but if you want the original CD you have to buy it. If people want digitalized material I don’t mind, I don’t think the digital domain will choke “originals”, rather the opposite. I look forward to the time when every object is unique and musicians will be invited to play live because they can offer a live, unique experience. What I see is a new middle age, where artists, like wanderers, travel all around the world playing live - live samples if you want, but again live. All the rest is plastic and information. More money should be invested in live events, cultural spaces and activities, instead of staying stuck on how much money the CD industry is loosing. Anyway I’m optimistic, I’m sure that the rules will change soon and both systems (art and economy) will survive.   

You are given the position of artistic director of a festival. What would be on your program?
Michael J. Shumacher, the Sinewave Orchestra, David First,  Olivia Block, Zbigniew Karkowski, Finnbogi Pétursson, Christina Kubisch, John Duncan, Nikolaus Heyduck, Werner Durand, Tao Vrhovec Sambolec, Kim Cascone… many others. If possible, more than a festival where artists just come, perform and go, I’d prefer to organize a meeting, an event with concerts, conferences and workshops. I think it’s better if people can spend some time together, discuss about what’s going on in the art scene and share links, experiences and techniques. This way there’s a better exchange and growth besides the simple show.  Exactly one mounth ago I actually organized here in Udine the third chapter of Pushing the Medium, an international sound and mixed media art symposium. I invited Yannick Dauby, Urkuma, Olivier Feraud, Klaus Filip, Alessandro Fogar, Noid, Karen Hay, Murmer, Paulo Raposo, Giancarlo Toniutti, John Grzinich, Hitoshi Kojo, Billy Roisz, Toshimaru Nakamura and Francesco Michi. It’s been a very nice and fruitful experience.

Many artists dream of a “magnum opus”. Do you have a vision of what yours
would sound like?

Please let’s talk about this 65 years from now.

Fades (2006) i dischi di angelica

Antonio della Marina

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