NEW IMPROVISATIONAL PATHS ADVANCED PENTATONIC TECHNIQUES
A manual, a practical guide and formulary of inventions, “ New improvisational paths ” is at the same time an in-depth experimental essay and a very original research aimed at the realization of a practical-compositional study method: starting from the analysis of the pentatonic world (concept of Penta 5 and Penta 7) and then moves on to everything that can generate the pentatonic structure – understood as a potential basis for both vertical and horizontal development -, Vittorio Mezza investigates the fascination of pentatonic specularity (with brief hints on the hexatonal one, to the triadic crossings and their relationship with other structures) to finally arrive at the treatment of intervals understood in a living, compositional, generating sense, and the concept of Free Fly Zone.
“It cannot be denied that the search for a path that is easy to identify in the folds of improvisation arouses great charm, intimately linked above all, to the seductive and enchanting power inherent in musical art itself: improvisation, radiating through infinite paths, reaches thus to be made explicit in any context-language, launching an open challenge to the chaos of possibilities”.
(Fragmentary poem! But at the same time, extremely paradigmatic of the work).
Fragments thrown out of the ego in revolt
Shreds of awareness and emptiness
To cut out and take away
Creatures shaped by the demiurge?
Coordination of gestures
Plans of immanence
Spaces between things
Lines that start in the middle, in the meantime
Breakdown of molecules and aggregation
Separated time blocks
Constructions, asymptotic structures
Lightnings that illuminate glimpses of the sky
Ataraxia, a vain attempt?
Black solitude, populated
Up there, in the distance but true, the plateaus of the ego.. “.
Fragments had a long gestation period and required great dedication, more than I imagined at the beginning. Written several times in fact – even if the general structure was well defined right from the start – it crystallized slowly, stratifying itself in the various phases of a conscious and meticulous process of development and optimization: from the initial impulse, to the writing itself, to the screening of the performance, the forming form and, finally, the actual digitalization and graphic definition. It represents a summa of the techniques of writing, realization and structuring of my musical thinking in recent years. Therefore, it is a publication that I particularly care about, as well as being really grateful for having received the support of a great Publisher like UTORPHEUS, who was able to grasp the smallest nuances of meaning underlying this work, demonstrating that necessary global openness in which the contemporary approach is continually renewed, declining according to the most particular needs – sometimes difficult to classify -, thus inserting Fragments in the Contemporary Music Series.
Writing about music is far from easy and I am pleased to have the opportunity to talk about it – albeit briefly – in this preface. As Vladimir Jankélévitch states in The Music and the Ineffable: “music testifies to the fact that the essential in all things is something of the elusive and the ineffable; it strengthens in us the conviction that the most important thing in the world is precisely what cannot be said”. From this general climate of “I don’t know what exactly”, all beings, things, live in a state of profound “intermediarity”, hidden from reality, between being-and-not-being, between life-and-death. Therefore Being, life, would be emptied of all meaning and reason if we did not use – to talk about it – the language of contradiction; if we did not speak contradictorily – between the spoken and the unspoken – and we did not live between the concomitant presence of the luminous revelation of the real and its objective obscurity, which is not equally noticeable and detectable.
And it is precisely this essential misunderstanding that music brings to the surface, placing itself – like an endless background – in what Jankélévitch paradoxically calls the “regime” of the “Expressive-inexpressive”; at this point, grasping the mystery becomes “an impossible bet”. As in the journey towards the Ineffable, a Man feels that sense of veiled helplessness that accompanies him in life, so, of art, it is never possible to specify its univocal intent. And the musical composition does not represent and does not mean anything, it remains as if suspended in itself, hiatus without reason and justification, immersed in its charm, impalpable. Obviously, the study, the motivations, the inspiration, the natural predisposition and all those digressive parameters belonging to the composer as ‘subject’ remain outside this discourse which, on the other hand, have a more than decisive and important weight for the success of the ‘musical object’. Therefore, I hope that this book – which was born and developed from a small idea – will push the musician, the performer, beyond all expectations of comparison in the compositional-executive sphere.
It was a torrid summer several years ago, in the early afternoon of a blistering day, I found myself unusually on the porch of my house in Campania, immersed in thoughts, seeking – almost skeptically – the most concrete and personal ways of development of my improvisational language and of my piano technique. It was a crucial moment for my musical studies: on the one hand there were the years of studying classical music, on the other there was … jazz and – in my small way -, in the center, the image of myself and my own personal improvisational language. I clearly heard – perhaps not quite for the first time – a sound coming from the trees; almost constant, which was gradually defining itself, at times repetitive, ‘cellular’ (in the sense of germ cell), in a word: musical. It seemed to me something between a cry and a lament but certainly not a request for help; rather a signal as a pleased presence, a request to participate in the passing of time and a sharing of the summer moment. It was as if someone or something wanted to draw attention to themselves, in a relaxed manner, by sending a clear signal.
I immediately understood that that presence represented the so-called introductory ‘A’, an opening that should be explicit – indeed had to – without the slightest hesitation. So, in the heat, I ran to my studio and, from those intervals I had heard shortly before, Birth from a bird was born. It is a piece for solo piano, in which I used different compositional techniques, developing apparently simple interval structures, then expanded in the creative process of improvisation. From the contemporary sonority, results an intertwining of chromatism and, at the same time, of strong and structural melodic moments. This is explained by the fact that, basically, the composition develops on a ‘primordial’ cell (hence the aforementioned ‘cellular’ expression) which covers the exact interval of a tone, with the following directional movement: descending tone and next ascending semitone, more or less clearly visible from the beginning to the end of the composition. This simple interspersed plot gradually turns into something more complex, thanks to the use of polyrhythmic, polymetries and polyharmonies techniques, in addition to the continuous modal and interval interchange. It is a composition that also requires a certain ‘rhythmic’ preparation (precisely in the muscular sense and coordination on the part of the performer), especially in the various moments of independence – almost African, percussive – between the two hands. Then there is a certain alternation of parts that do not show the bar lines, with others that are very well structured from the metric point of view, where the range of dynamics is rather varied and effective; together with more reflective, evocative moments, where sporadic poly harmonies mix with fairly defined modal areas. Finally, there is no lack of ‘direct contact’ with the instrument, which emerges in a very short timbral exploration (as on pages 2 and 21).
Sound and silence, remembrance, memory, intuition and the consequent development of a creative personality represent some of the essential phases of man’s life and envelop his entire being at all times. Music, which is in some way the organization of sounds, thus becomes a real living process, a different feeling each time, a free reflection of being: the thinking. Each of us, listening to sounds, based on his own intellectual experience and perceptual depth, tries, even unconsciously, to establish an order, not necessarily logical or teleological. In this way, that order, perceived in our time – personal temporal brackets of total time – already creates the next step of elaboration as an exclusive process of our being, in fact; and intuition is precisely the fundamental element from which to start leading us to any form of open processing. This book represents for me, once again, the presence of music in my life, as a shape re-cut over time aimed at tirelessly giving a new meaning to life itself.
In his conversations, Cage states that time is the real dimension of all music and that composing is like writing a letter to a stranger, asking questions; and it is precisely the development of the story (the question in this case represents a unifying element common to the answers) that reveals – to those who are completely open to sound perception – elements of great charm and mysterious value, of tension towards a new life experience: a new way of living in the world, the environment that surrounds us.
One of the truest and most interesting aspects of music, in fact, is represented precisely by the encounter between man – immersed in his constantly adapting habitat – and his spirituality. Memories of Love, albeit dense with a supple and plastic melodic plot, imbued with rapid metric changes and iridescent harmonic colors leaves a lot of space for the musician, I believe; giving him a certain freedom of execution and interpretation, despite the punctual and due anchors of the score. I hope that it can lead him to the paths closest to his being since, substantially, the underlying compositional thread moves from a rather open and intentionally non-binding thought, which takes place by simply isolating, in retrospect, the joy of even unconscious moments recognized as special: the memory of all that has been given to us, of all the love received, since childhood – in the temporal confrontation with the present -, relieves in what we are and in what we will try to be, in the music that we will be – in the future – , the sense that we will be able to give Time to search for the construction of its objective truth (?).
This is my first piano book that consists of three compositions in their own right but organically structured. Writing seems to belong to the world of photography where the lens captures the fleeting moment of thought and emotion that together are transformed into the improvisational gesture, until it reaches, not without difficulty, crystallizing, paper.
In Pianogrups vol. 1 all the characteristics of my compositional language are present in a nutshell: complex harmonic and rhythmic superimpositions, polymodality, jazz-like voicings innervated in a contemporary fabric, particular graphic signs (some made by myself) and “box” sections (intended as extensions of bars or small sections) containing the indications to continue the musical journey, including parametric improvisation.
There are also rhythmic virtuosities in which the two hands sublimate into real percussive worlds, sometimes unraveling on complex pentatonic structures, at other times on minimalist reiteration and on the development of interval arcs.
Thanks to this first volume, in 2006 I obtained the “Consorzio Sviluppo Industriale” Special Award for culture at the 4th Edition of the “Oreste Sindici” International Composition Award – Presidential Medal of the Republic, city of Ceccano (FR).
Pianogrups vol. 2 represents the sequel to the previous book, its natural evolution. While maintaining profound traits of coherence with Vol. 1, it is permeated with a new compositional light, perhaps more mature and with greater details both as regards the writing itself and for the use of poly harmonies and even more aggressive rhythmic joints between the two hands.
In fact, the general rhythmic impact – in this case the knowledge of a pulsating engine, necessary for the success of the performance itself – emerges with greater emphasis, the use of single harmonic sounds or even combined with real ones; the development of jazz-like voicings – which appear to be here a real identity foothold and which blend in the contemporary marbling, even with rock and progressive echoes; the further use, this time even more massive, of the ”box ad libitum”, sections that indicate how to manage and develop the interaction between the two hands, giving greater emphasis to the relationship between them. In the example taken from No. IV, this relationship is based on speed variations: the right and left hands chase each other, one progressively accelerating as much as possible and using the indicated design, the other slowing to a stop.
Finally, we find the use in general of greater harmonic and melodic tension on already complex rhythmic bases together with the indication of even more detailed graphics and agogics designed not to limit the freedom of the performer but, indeed, to provide him with valuable wide-ranging inputs, for the best possible realization of his fundamental role.
Pianogrups Vol. 1 and 2, initially published by Bèrben Edizioni Musicali, are now in the catalog at the renowned CURCI Publishing House in Milan.