MA Massimiliano Messieri /San Marino/ - composer, organizer, music writer, Conservatory San Marino 2022

The period of the Covid pandemic, which began in the first months of 2020 and which is continuing until today, even if we have become accustomed to the presence of this changing virus, is undoubtedly the first major global event of the third millennium, which has been capable of blocking the entire human species. Men, women and children were relegated to their houses under curfew and were allowed to go out only once a week to buy food or to walk in front of the house only if they owned a dog. The dogs then began to see their two-legged friends with the muzzle (mask) while they had it removed. In this apocalyptic scenario, where has music gone? During the first four months of despair and misinformation dictated by fear, the world had become deaf and mute and silence reigned. The sounds had become islands in an ocean of silence just as John Cage meant it. However, children are those who express themselves without cages and are able to communicate with each other without a specific language, and they were those who broke this wall of fear and ghostly silence by starting to play on the balconies, inspiring other musicians (grown children). A “population of children” began to express themselves little by little with the sounds from the balconies of their homes in every possible way and shape, creating improvised collective scores worthy of the best disciples of John Cage. In this way the music has risen again through silence.


It was precisely this period, more than any other previous ones, that made me reflect in depth on the meaning of music and freedom, as I have never noticed their intrinsic importance. I asked myself what was the meaning of music in social life and why composing it today. The twentieth century was a highly contradictory musical period: in one hundred years music was broken up into genres (classical, jazz, pop, rock, experimental, fusion, folk). Everyone wanted to lead a musical current and, if not recognized as the head of that current, they joined it. After atonality, many other currents of thought were born: serialism, Webernian pointillism, structuralism, alea, controlled alea, neo-Dadaism, performance, minimalism, micro-polyphony, the German "New Simplicity" (Neue Einfachheit) and subsequently the "New Complexity", spectral music, together with the technological development, electronic music, concrete music, electroacoustic music, then neo-tonalism, neo-romanticism, neo-modalism, algorithmic music were born and later came the contamination of genres. Before Covid all this stylistic diversity was restricted only to the corridors of the academies and inside the concert halls, the concerts had become meetings for professionals only, where the composer and the performers were applauded in turn by an audience of composers and performers. So, what had music become for those who created it? An exercise of thought and technique? And then, that the theaters and the academies were closed, that one could no longer be free to communicate by voice, if not by means of an electronic instrument, what had music become? A real ocean of silence? Well, for me Music has always been an expression of life. Music is a language that allows me to express emotions and thoughts with sounds. This concept is not far from avant-garde thinking, but the contents certainly are.


Although there was a Cagean expression in the cities, in San Marino we were imprisoned at home and guarded by the militia, we were prisoners in a prison without a cage, where the only freedom we had was the freedom of thought. It was precisely the piano that placed me in front of reality: up to that moment I had written for any kind of ensemble, the year before the pandemic I even made an opera, “Alice”, so I wrote for various ensembles, vocals, instrumentals, electronic music and so on, but the piano has always been left aside, so I shut myself up in that unexpected "prison" , I sat in front of a wall, just like I had a challenge to overcome: "I want to see what I can say with an instrument which is totally different from the others ".  I started to verify if the thought of the microcosm within a sound, of a small structure, of a phrasing, of a sound amalgam (if we want to call it with the classic term "chord", even if they are not chords but are overlapping of elements of the tetrachord, which produces everything), had a correlation with the piano, if this was an instrument I could refer to. Since I started from history, I told myself "why not using other historical elements (in addition to the universe of the tetrachord) such as the meter?" The meter has been considered for years almost something diabolical, because it indicates an ancient thought.  So “if I use the tetrachord, which is as old as the Greek meter, I can safely use this too and I won’t set limits to myself”.


The evolution of my language has gradually taken some elements from the past; one of these is the use of the tetrachord, which was particularly appreciated by the Mediterranean populations – and therefore used in their popular music – and by the followers of cultivated music. The application of this basic material – though with almost infinite possibilities, covering the whole harmony – has followed me through all these years. I think that I became aware of the real use of the tetrachord with “Quartetto No. 2” for strings (Krakow 2010), while the previous scores were a path of Jungian self-analysis, because some elements were already present in “Die Märchenprinzfantasien” for alto saxophone and digital audio (Dresden 2014). The relationship between stretching and contracting, that is intrinsic in sound like the breathing of the universe or of the earth, is also present in the tetrachord, and contrasts elements of consonance and dissonance.


This search led to a transformation of my musical conception, not just from the structural point of view (written on paper) but from the cognitive one, too: the complexity of the sound world proves that there really are structures of their own – just like Pierre Schaeffer thought – where a sound mass already contains, in turn, a formal musical structure.


I have to admit that I have rediscovered Rachmaninov’s music. If we analyze his scores, for example the “Sonatas”, we realize that inside every single element there are some counterpointing features that are in no way inferior to Webern’s scores. From my point of view, they are just less conceptual and closer to the idea of music and listening rather than to the thought. Webern was no doubt one of the greatest of his time, but we must not forget that they were almost contemporary composers. We are in front of two different ways of thinking: the time is reduced in Webern’s pieces, while in Rachmaninov it is expanded even with a complex counterpoint structure. Here I started to understand what is beyond the path I took at the beginning.


After a period of reflection, analysis and research I wrote three compositions for solo piano "Fantasia No.2 – In viaggio con Patrizia" (Traveling with Patrizia), "Sonata" and "Impressioni", then while humanity slowly resumed “breathing” and going out a little at a time from their own prisons, I continued to write extending the ensemble: I composed "Concerto" for piano and orchestra and “D’una radice nacqui ed io ed ella” Concertante fantasy for cello, harp and string orchestra, but without ever abandoning the piano as in "12 Haiku" for solo piano or "Fantasia concertante" for piano and string orchestra, because is this instrument, which Beethoven considered an orchestral laboratory, that had given me the strength to escape from a cage without cage, allowing me to find myself through compositions that I hope to be able to listen to with the audience of the Forfest soon.





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