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15 Questions to Graziano Lella

img  Tobias

Hi! How are you? Where are you?
Not bad, thanks! I live in Rome, Italy, and now I’m sitting at my desk.


What’s on your schedule right now?
I’m very busy… I’m working on my new solo CD and on a new collaboration with the Italian guitarist Mattia Coletti. I’ve also recorded a lot of material with my trio Taxonomy (with Elio Martusciello and Roberto Fega) for a new future CD release. We are approaching the stage of composing and editing the master. Finally, I’m working with the video-artists crew Studio Brutus/Citrullo International on a new audiovisual 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?
It’s impossible to describe or list my influences. There are too many! Maybe life and cultural experiences, thinking, relationships with places and people, affects, emotions and, naturally, all the arts (experimental & popular / academic & non-academic / traditional & avant-garde musics, literature, comics, cinema, audiovisual languages...and so on…) I’m Italian, so, obviously it’s impossible to exclude the influence of my place of birth and living on my work. Nevertheless, I think that I’m not part of any clearly defined movement, even if some contact points with a couple of aesthetical and artistic currents are evident.


What’s your view on the music scene at present? Is there a crisis?
I think that this argument is very delicate and difficult to analyze. There are many, many aspects to be considered. Superficially speaking, it would seems that there is a deep crisis at present: Too many releases, “amateur” musicians, low quality projects etc. But as one looks deeper, things aren't really like this. In fact, there are interesting musicians that are experimenting with forms and languages. The deep crisis, in my opinion, is in the festivals' artistic directions and in the mass media insiders. In most cases, the selection of the musicians and the spaces devoted to them follow “maffia-like” ways or are tied up to profit as the only purpose. And this is also true for experimental music contests! Finally, other things should be considered: the development of new media and new audio formats. Surely these aspects have thoroighly transformed the music’s fruition with a resulting crisis of old channels, such as CD sales and concerts.


What does the term „new“ mean to you in connection with music?
Really, I don’t know what is “new”. New is what is unexpected, never done before, different, unknown… It seems, as though everything has already been created created today. But all through history, the artistic avantgardes have always demonstrated that there is something or someone that suddenly goes out with new ideas, ideas that nobody had thought of before. Naturally, this is only true for art music. For commercial music “new” means not much used… or not so much exploited, therefore suitable to make money…


How do you see the relationship between sound and composition?
Even if I am a concrete music composer, for me it’s easy because it isn’t a new concept: A composition is an organization of sounds. Sounds are the bricks for the composition. But it is not always like that. In fact, sounds sometimes can be the result of a compositional process, not only the raw material, depending on the aesthetic choices of a composer.


How strictly do you separate improvising and composing?
It depends. Sometimes I compose, sometimes I improvise. But there are projects where composition and improvisation coexist side by side. They are two aspects/practices of music that can be clearly separated or, why not, well integrated.


What constitutes a good live performance in your opinion? What’s your approach to performing on stage?
A live performance must communicate something to listeners. It is less important “what” is communicated. Rather, it is essential that people will remember moments or colours or atmospheres of the performance when they go home. A problematic aspect of contemporary electronic music is the absence of a gesture that, in my opinion, is impossible to fill or replace with visuals. This is a routine or cliché used by too many musicians! An audiovisual performance is another artistic form and is not a surrogate of a weak live music performance.

So I try, in a live context, to create moods in such ways as to arouse interest and attention in listeners. A main aspect of my live approach is the reduced use of rigid predefined materials: Most of my musical performances are built with real-time sound manipulation and -assemblage with the aim to elaborate a sort of dramaturgical development.


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?
It is very difficult to answer to this question in a few lines…What is music? “Uncommercial” music languages are artistic forms. So we have to define what is art, the purpose or function of art, what art represents for people, the knowledge or cultural level of listeners and so on…I really think that it's impossible to establish a border.


Are “serious” and “popular” really two different types of music or just empty words without a meaning?
They should be empty word, but unfortunately that's not how it is. The market dictates the rules. Experimental or art music is labelled as “serious”, but they can be very funny! And “popular” music can be so “high”, poetic, deep, rigorous…


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?
This question has a link with question n. 9. Sure, art should have…But it is not necessary to include a clear political/social message in an artistic work. A political/social value can also be underlined by a production/diffusion mechanism that does not follow the logic of marketing. Finally, I believe that a political/social content in a bad artistic form is very weak and unhelpful. A strong message can be popularized only with a clear and strong form.


True or false: People need to be educated about  music, before they can really appreciate it.
It is only true to a certain degree. Unfortunately, it is true that there is an evident widespread musical ignorance today. The causes are multiple: mass media and festivals' programs choices, absence of a deeper music studies in ordinary school formation, market laws etc. But it is also true that art can be appreciate by people on an individual level, without “technical” knowledge, one's own experience and sensibility is enough.


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?
Ideally I am against copyright and in favour of free diffusion of music. But realistically speaking I think that, in this scenario, the majors and succesful musicians would find ways to remain rich and opulent, whereas the independent musicians and labels would be damaged because they'd have no possibility to live off their music.


You are given the position of artistic director of a festival. What would be on your program?
It would depend on the festival and money at hand. There are many musicians and groups that I like very much. Surely I would not include the usual names that are generally in too many festival programs already (I could give you some names, but I prefer not to…). I am really tired and bored to listen to the same projects every season! This is what  happens here in Italy.


Many artists dream of a “magnum opus”. Do you have a vision of what yours would sound like?
I don’t know if a “magnum opus” exists. The artistic path of everyone is always in evolution, like life. Maybe there isn’t a stopping point, a perfect creation, a supreme masterwork. So I haven’t a vision regarding my work.

Taxonomy + Polvere - Scatole Sonore (Idoscalodischi/L'antascorrevole) 2006
Taxonomy - A global taxonomical machine  (Ambiances Magnétiques) 2005

arg - arg (Sirr.ecords) 2002

VVAA - Cosmonaute - 2002 (Anorack records)
VVAA - Sotto il sole di Roma - 2000 (Sonagli) (with Zic & Dura Figura)

Graziano Lella at MySpace

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