There is a boundary in one’s fearful mind; once crossed, it does not allow us to distinguish clearly between dream and reality, grief and joy, hate and love. The atrocious pain of those deported in the concentration camps drags us, through the violence they underwent, inside a gigantic and apocalyptic Babel tower made of voices and sounds. Here the linear paths of a temporal form and the normal ingredients of musical narrative mix with each other, are shaken and deformed, creating a blinding journey, one which is unpredictable, and, at the same time, both clear and dirty, both hellish and heavenly. Il Sognatoio by Ludovico Peroni is precisely this.
In order to travel this itinerary, his musical writing needs to employ diverse techniques, which are constantly seeking a precarious balance between composition and improvisation; he also needs to create, together with his travel mates, a deep complicity in the construction of the project. Peroni steers this powerful Ship of Fools using a white-hot and continuously boiling musical matter, which is always ready for a change of direction, and is never circumscribed within a defined language.
This entire imaginary journey starts from Fine (“The end”) and arrives to Inizio (“The beginning”) – as if it were a cryptic initiation process inside an overturned labyrinth. Curiously, this journey includes a few luminous aural islands full of surprises and of subtle hope, even though they are immersed in the grief of Notte (“Night”) and Nebbia (“Fog”) – via necis, via nubis –; these islands are similar to those flashes of interior light that apparently accompany those condemned to death when they are led to the firing squad.
In these flashes of light there survives the taste of a song, the flowing of a time full of sun, which is however ready to disintegrate when it travels on a different thought, which violently surfaces during the itinerary. In fact, there appears an infernal Nascondino (“Hide-and-seek”), between the voice of hate and death on the one hand, and the clarinet’s deep and shooting sound on the other; it leads us, through a further door, to a kind of “dissonant circus”, hysterical and incorrect, blunt, unreal and funny: the Pupo di bestia.
We now enter a delirium with a cinematographic nature (Intermezzo); later we land, through a sinister regularity of dissonant bells, on the terrible game of the obsessive and compulsive hyper-memory of Ipertimesia. This actually becomes a rhythmic memory, an irregular tic of the mind, agitated by stuttering. However, in an island of playful death (Macinello) there suddenly appears a refined and learned circular construction, with a great sunny and meditative atmosphere, which progressively transforms into a hypnotic and turbulent vortex, and then returns to the calm and luminous shores of the beginning.
The finale (or rather the Inizio) surprises us once more and invites us to listen to an ancient rite intoned by the instruments – or perhaps by mysterious voices – at a sidereal distance. It seems like an immaterial procession beyond the sky, which closes, without any answer, this surprising dream.
“Sognatoio” [the place of dreams] is a word I could not find on any dictionary. I was surprised when I heard it in a magnificent but crude documentary on the Shoah by Alain Resnais (Nuit et brouillard, 1955). It was used to indicate a place inside the concentration camp, which was closed by a mysterious door, and from which nobody had ever returned. A wonderful word to indicate an undoubtedly horrible place. It is a word that, somehow, manages to tenaciously keep hold of the traces of a desperate hope. But a hope which is authentic.
Il Sognatoio, instead, is the imagined journey, as dreamlike as it is concrete, among the last memories and the last emotions of a Jew who managed to survive the concentration camps. Old age and childhood encounter each other and clash in the experience and memory of deportation, with no clear boundaries.
It is for me really difficult to define the music of this work (and, very likely, there is a part of me which refuses even to try). I think it right to present it as a place to which I attempted to channel – seamlessly but with a powerful unity of atmosphere – many of the musical languages (both written and improvised) that I flatter myself to master: from heavy metal to serial music, touching jazz, pop and concrete music. This represents my idea of a continuing quest for a music which does not exist, but which I sometimes distinctly hear in my head. If this may help, somebody called it “a radio play dressed up as a concept album”.
Within a circular structure inverting temporal linearity, some fragments of memory are scattered, alternating sweetness with violence. The heterogenous material is transformed into a “xenochrony”, whose internal cohesion is granted by its internal dramaturgy. Thus, the original poem by Filippo Davoli (Da piccolo giocavo alla morte), which works as the composition’s narrative framework, both lights up and switches off a spotlight on an alienating and grotesque game, which anticipates and exorcizes what is going to happen. Somebody else said that one perceives “the unique and repeatable circularity of the experience of the horrid and of the sublime which has neither beginning nor end”.
I would like this album to be listened to with the same disposition with which one observes a visual-art installation – maybe while being seated on an abandoned chair, in the necessary solitude, under a sweet light which transforms us into the unaware protagonists of a story made of feelings, smells and thoughts. I hope that, heard from this chair, Il Sognatoio will be able to surprise, fascinate, frighten, and, perhaps, also to admonish. “A moment of encounter and quest, of the I with the self, with the hope that something good will come of it”, as still another person suggested.
I would like to thank José Daniel Cirigliano, a musician whom I already appreciated highly. He accepted this cooperation with enthusiasm and with trust towards me, demonstrating his human gifts of a seldom-found profundity.
A great thanks to Filippo Davoli, not only for his friendship (and brotherhood), but also for the gift of his poetry. He has been the first artist who managed to make me reflect on the importance of bringing the magnificent things of everyday to light. I hope to be able to do the same myself, sooner or later.
My heartfelt gratitude goes also to Ignacio Llamas, an artist who, besides creating the work which constitutes the graphical support to Il Sognatoio, was also able to make me experiment with the importance of dialogue in relation to Art.
My most intense thanks to every member of the experimental ensemble QROrchestra, since they allow me to make use of a palette of styles, expressive possibilities and occasions for dialogue of which I never found the likes elsewhere. It is only thanks to their help which I always thought it possible to give shape to what I feel or think.
I thank my family, for having always kept the flame of memory, of joke and of curiosity within me.
Translation by Chiara Bertoglio
Ludovico Peroni: Italian musicologist and composer. Peroni was born in 1990 and now lives in Montappone, a small town in Marche, Italy. After completing musicology studies (Università di Roma Tor Vergata) and music studies (Conservatorio Santa Cecilia), he devoted himself to research on improvisational music languages and experimental composition. He usually works with conducted improvisation systems with large and small ensemble; since 2016, he has been working with the QRO Ensemble (Rome). His transversal formation – between jazz, rock, research and avant-garde music – pushes him to compose works with many facets: he usually work with concrete music and with a non-convential notation in according with classic or jazz compositional techniques. Now he’s attending a PhD programme (Università degli Studi di Firenze) with a research on conducted improvisation.