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Alvin Curran, Walter Prati: Community Garden

12.50 9.90

Official release: May 2021

  • Artist(s): Alvin Curran, Walter Prati
  • Composer(s): Alvin Curran, Walter Prati
  • EAN Code: 7.46160912431
  • Edition: Da Vinci Classics
  • Format: 1 Cd
  • Genre: Chamber
  • Instrumentation: Electric Cello, Electronics, Keyboard, Sampler, Synthetizer
  • Period: Contemporary
  • Publication year: 2021
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Description

This Da Vinci Classics album stems from a friendship and a cooperation. Its protagonists are two musicians, Walter Prati and Alvin Curran, each contributing his own experience, musical principles, creativity and openness to artistic encounters.
Walter Prati’s musical background is as unusual as it is fascinating. He describes it as a “mix of non-academic provenances and academic experiences”. His first approaches to music performance date back to his early teens, when he began playing the bass in a rock band with his fellow students at secondary school. (Half-jokingly, he reveals that his choice of the bass guitar was not entirely deliberate: a bassist was needed, and, moreover, the bass had fewer strings than the guitar, so… it was probably easier to play!). Later, and almost by chance, he had his Damascus moment when listening to a work by György Ligeti. From that point on, his musical itinerary was at the crossroads of diverse musical worlds: from psychedelic rock to Ligeti, from Jimi Hendrix to the free jazz of the Sixties, which he learnt to appreciate some years later. “There was a melting pot of many musical interests, and I transferred this experience into the extemporaneous playing style I had in those years”.
At the same time, Prati befriended young musicians who were attending the Milan Conservatoire and the contexts of academic music. Little by little, he entered that world himself: he began to play the double-bass, then applied to the Conservatory course of electronic music (in 1978, with Paccagnini), and finally followed courses of composition under the guidance of Irlando Danieli.
While learning the different languages and technique of musical composition, Prati tried his hand at electronic music in combination with the world of “radical improvisation”, with which he always remained in close contact.
In the Eighties, Prati found his voice as a composer, building his musical identity both technically and esthetically. The value of his creations was acknowledged by many, and he won several competitions with his compositions of electronic music. Since then, he always tried to stay at the threshold between the two worlds of “composed” (i.e. written) music and improvisation. Whereas these two worlds are considered as antithetic by many, for Prati they equally contribute to his musical profile. This approach corresponded to his deep artistic aspirations, but led to frequent misunderstandings and misapprehensions in the musical establishment. “I always found it difficult to find opportunities for musical encounters here in Italy. In the composers’ eyes I was an improviser, and a composer for the improvisers. I had always to seek and find the borderlands of composition and improvisation. As the years went by, these borderlands became increasingly narrow, and presently they are really limited”.
In the Nineties, Prati resumed his collaboration with Evan Parker, with whom he had followed a seminary during his student days, and for whom he had created his first important composition. Prati participated to Parker’s ensemble since its inception, in 1992; together, they realized concerts, tours and recordings for ECM. “It was not just an important recognition for our work, but rather a test for it. To record our music meant that it was worth transmitting to future generations”, as Prati explains.
In the subsequent years, Prati continued cooperating with many musicians, always trying to create “clashes or layers”, as he puts it, between composed and improvised music.
This interaction was fostered and facilitated by the use of electronic music: “It broadens the horizon because it permits many operations”, as Prati affirms. For example, non-electronic instruments may be played in an improvisation, while electronic instruments may be used in a more precise and defined fashion, or vice-versa. This experience may encompass that of an absolute freedom, as happens when no previous agreement is established among the musicians. “In those cases”, as Prati puts it, “all happens at the moment when the other is perceived with his music”. These experiences proved to be very fecund also from the pedagogical viewpoint. Prati teaches Electroacoustic Musical Composition at the Conservatory of Como, and gives seminars about the techniques of musical improvisation. The encounter of written and improvised music is a formidable resource in the educational field. “This kind of improvisation is not grounded on aesthetical rules, as for example in the case of jazz improvisation. In that or in similar cases, improvisation happens within the framework of established aesthetical principles, and one needs to master a specific musical attitude. Here, what matters is to be familiar with the musical attitudes of the various musical worlds; to be able, in other words, to identify the intervals or musical gestures which are typical for a particular style. Although this can be just a superficial image of a specific repertoire, it leads the listener to a particular musical world”. Eclecticism, or the capability of freeing oneself from the constraints of labels and classifications, is what characterizes also the aesthetics of Alvin Curran, the other musician represented in this recorded. As he writes of himself, his experience of music encompasses many seemingly contradictory realities. Similar to Prati, he appreciates the possibility of crossing the boundary between composition and improvisation, and enjoys the attempt to reconcile tonality with atonality. His large compositional output includes works for classical instruments (such as the piano or the violin), others for instruments at the crossroads between “cultivated” and folk/ethnic music (such as the accordion or the shofar), and others with taped and sampled natural sounds, synthesizers and computers. Among his foundational experiences was one in a “radical music collective” based in Rome, in the mid-Sixties. “Musica elettronica viva” – this was the ensemble’s name – was an attempt to explore the various dimensions of sound and of the human and artistic relationships it enabled and favoured. His various fields of activity include numerous audio/visual installations, in cooperation with visual artists, as well as a core interest in pedagogy and education.
In Prati’s words, Curran’s role in today’s musical scene is fundamental: “He has been and still is not only a witness, but rather a protagonist and an actor throughout several decades of important musical experiences. He has powerful ideas; ideas resulting from his long reflections. He is the torch-bearer of an attitude to improvisation with which I’m fully in agreement”.
The two musicians’ friendship began many years ago. “We always said that we had to make something together, but it never materialized”. In 2019, however, Curran had planned to stay in Milan for a while, and the opportunity came for scheduling a joint recording session. The principle behind it was to create an improvisation “led” by the instruments. The two musicians established which instruments were to be used: the sound medium thus became the stimulus for artistic creation. “The instruments paved the way for us”, says Prati, “through their sounds, technique and performance practice”.
Such an improvisation can only take place when the musicians practise an extreme form of concentrated listening. “When musicians encounter each other, they listen and consequently change their performance style. Whenever I met and performed with other musicians, the final result was always something different from what I could have done in my routine creations”. After the recording sessions, the musicians had produced five recorded tracks; four of them are included in this album, and each represents “a different world”, in Prati’s words. For example, the third track is entirely made of electronic sounds, and this feature is atypical for both musicians. Their encounter, therefore, resembles the “community garden” evoked in the title of this album. The idea for the title is Curran’s, and, for Prati, “it mirrors the reality of our encounter and of what is heard”. The CD cover displays a picture taken by Prati himself, and portraying a composition of seeds and weeds, such as are typical for community gardens. “It is the confluence of various aromas, flavours, spices and kinds of music. As happens with all musical works whose style goes beyond the usual ones, openness is required of the listener, whose perception is stimulated. It is important to be attentive to every detail, and to welcome unusual experiences. Music is for all, but not all are for music… It is the individual’s choice”.
The organic image of the garden and of the vegetables is also a reminder that electronic music possesses an ecology of its own. This music germinates from the human relationship between two artists, and it employs the digital media “as instruments”, not as ends in themselves. They are in the service of the artists’ inspiration and of their musical dialogue; they are similar to the gardener’s tools, whose end is to serve the growth and flourishing of a luxuriant garden.

Album Notes by Chiara Bertoglio

Artist(s)

Alcin Curran: Democratic, irreverent and traditionally experimental, Curran travels in a computerized covered wagon between the Golden Gate and the Tiber River, and makes music for every occasion with any sounding phenomena -- a volatile mix of lyricism and chaos, structure and indeterminacy, fog horns, fiddles and fiddle heads. He is dedicated to the restoration of dignity to the profession of making non-commercial music as part of a personal search for future social, political and spiritual forms.
Curran's music-making embraces all the contradictions (composed/improvised, tonal/atonal, maximal/minimal...) in a serene dialectical encounter. His more than 200 works feature taped/sampled natural sounds, piano, synthesizers, computers, violin, percussion, shofar, ship horns, accordion and chorus. Whether in the intimate form of his well-known solo performances, or pure chamber music, experimental radio works or large-scale site-specific sound environments and installations, all forge a very personal language from all the languages through dedicated research and recombinant invention.
With a fortuitous bang, he begins his musical journey (1965 in Rome) as co-founder of the radical music collective MUSICA ELETTRONICA VIVA, as a solo performer, and as a composer for Rome's avantgarde theater scene. In the 70's, he creates a poetic series of solo works for synthesizer, voice, taped sounds and found objects. Seeking to develop new musical spaces, and now considered one of the leading figures in making music outside of the concert halls -- he develops a series of concerts for lakes, ports, parks, buildings, quarries and caves -- his natural laboratories. In the 1980's, he extends the ideas of musical geography by creating simultaneous radio concerts for three, then six large ensembles performing together from many European Capitals. By connecting digital samplers to MIDI Grands (Diskklavier) and computers, since 1987, he produces an enriched body of solo performance works -- an ideal synthesis between the concert hall and all sounding phenomena in the world. He creates a visually striking series of sound installations, some of them in collaboration with visual artists including Paul Klerr, Melissa Gould, Kristin Jones, Pietro Fortuna, Umberto Bignardi, Uli Sigg. Throughout these years he continues to write numerous pieces for radio and for acoustic instruments.
From 1975-80 taught vocal improvisation at the Accademia Nazionale d'Arte Drammatica (Rome) and from 1991 to 2006 was the Milhaud Professor of Composition at Mills College in Oakland, California. Currently teaching privately in Rome in addition to master classes, residencies, and lectures at Oberlin, Peabody, Brown, Berkeley, The Hague, Haifa, Harvard, Beijing, Bolzano, Mainz, Northwestern, Yale, etc.

Composer(s)

Alvin Curran: Democratic, irreverent and traditionally experimental, Curran travels in a computerized covered wagon between the Golden Gate and the Tiber River, and makes music for every occasion with any sounding phenomena -- a volatile mix of lyricism and chaos, structure and indeterminacy, fog horns, fiddles and fiddle heads. He is dedicated to the restoration of dignity to the profession of making non-commercial music as part of a personal search for future social, political and spiritual forms.
Curran's music-making embraces all the contradictions (composed/improvised, tonal/atonal, maximal/minimal...) in a serene dialectical encounter. His more than 200 works feature taped/sampled natural sounds, piano, synthesizers, computers, violin, percussion, shofar, ship horns, accordion and chorus. Whether in the intimate form of his well-known solo performances, or pure chamber music, experimental radio works or large-scale site-specific sound environments and installations, all forge a very personal language from all the languages through dedicated research and recombinant invention.
With a fortuitous bang, he begins his musical journey (1965 in Rome) as co-founder of the radical music collective MUSICA ELETTRONICA VIVA, as a solo performer, and as a composer for Rome's avantgarde theater scene. In the 70's, he creates a poetic series of solo works for synthesizer, voice, taped sounds and found objects. Seeking to develop new musical spaces, and now considered one of the leading figures in making music outside of the concert halls -- he develops a series of concerts for lakes, ports, parks, buildings, quarries and caves -- his natural laboratories. In the 1980's, he extends the ideas of musical geography by creating simultaneous radio concerts for three, then six large ensembles performing together from many European Capitals. By connecting digital samplers to MIDI Grands (Diskklavier) and computers, since 1987, he produces an enriched body of solo performance works -- an ideal synthesis between the concert hall and all sounding phenomena in the world. He creates a visually striking series of sound installations, some of them in collaboration with visual artists including Paul Klerr, Melissa Gould, Kristin Jones, Pietro Fortuna, Umberto Bignardi, Uli Sigg. Throughout these years he continues to write numerous pieces for radio and for acoustic instruments.
From 1975-80 taught vocal improvisation at the Accademia Nazionale d'Arte Drammatica (Rome) and from 1991 to 2006 was the Milhaud Professor of Composition at Mills College in Oakland, California. Currently teaching privately in Rome in addition to master classes, residencies, and lectures at Oberlin, Peabody, Brown, Berkeley, The Hague, Haifa, Harvard, Beijing, Bolzano, Mainz, Northwestern, Yale, etc.

Born December 13, 1938, Providence, Rhode Island. From five years: piano lessons, trombone, marching bands, Synagogue chants, Jazz, and his father's dance bands. Becomes an artist at age 13 in an apple tree at the house of his lifelong friend, poet Clark Coolidge. Hears Spike Jones, the Rhode Island Philharmonic, Satchmo, The Boston Symphony Orcherstra, Art Tatum, Charlie Parker, The Band of America, Thelonius Monk, Gerry Mulligan, Miles Davis, Coltrane, Bartok and Christian Wolff.
Studies composition with Ron Nelson (B.A. Brown University 1960) and with Elliott Carter and Mel Powell ( M.Mus., Yale School of Music 1963). During summer vacations, plays European crossings with the "Brunotes" on the Holland American Line, in a Greek Dance Band in the Catskills, and in the Dunes Hotel in Las Vegas. In the MUSICA ELETTRONICA VIVA years (1966 -1971 in Rome), performs in over 200 concerts in Europe and the USA with Teitelbaum and Rzewski, Carol Plantamura, Ivan Vandor, Alan Bryant and Jon Phetteplace; and makes significant artistic encounters with Giuseppe Chiari, Edith Schloss, AMM, Cornelius Cardew, Steve Lacy, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Steve ben Israel, Anthony Braxton, Simone Forti, Steve Reich, Joan La Barbara, Michael Nyman, La Monte Young, Trisha Brown, Robert Ashley, David Behrman, Gordon Mumma, Alvin Lucier, Larry Austin, Bill Smith, Paul Ketoff, Robert Moog, Nuova Consonanza, MEV2, Meme Perlini, Mario Ricci, Maria Monti, Prima Materia, Ron Bunzl, Phil Glass, Charlemagne Palestine, Terry Riley, George Lewis, Evan Parker, Gregory Reeves, Serge Tcherepnin, Kosugi, Pulsa, Maryanne Amacher, John Cage, David Tudor, Morton Feldman. Scelsi becomes his friend and mentor.

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