Dear Listeners, I’m writing this from Day 2 of the Unsound festival in Krakow, where I arrived yesterday morning after a few stopovers en route from my home in Montreal. Throughout the festival I’ll be sending out these less formal editions recapping the previous day’s programming, for our generous paid subscribers only. You can find some less processed notes and thoughts and media, which will inform the articles I eventually write after the festival, but which will hopefully be of some interest into my process, as well as perhaps a bit more minutiae and half-formed thoughts than I could fit in a finished piece. Find that after the paywall, and any support is much appreciated.
But first, since it took me a while to get here, a little extra content for our free subscribers recapping the past few days of activities.
I organized a concert last Wednesday in Montreal, to celebrate the latest collaboration between myself and Stefan Christoff, entitled Across time patched together, just released on the Montreal tape label Jeunesse Cosmique. This work collects unreleased live performances, radiophonic works, and outtakes recorded between 2014 and 2018. We’ll have some newer material coming soon, but we felt this material deserved a physical addition, and we’re excited it’s now out in the world. My studio mate Preston Beebe opened the show with a deep exploration of feedback and live percussion. We also had performances from Rehab Hazgui, who presented a field recording based work of research-creation from a recent residency in Singapore, and Hazy Montagne Mystique, the man behind Jeunesse Cosmique, whose freeform synth and vocal freakout evolved into trap beats and a stirring dedication. It was a great night all around, but unfortunately was the first of many nights in a row where I was unable to get more than an hour or two of sleep, because I was soon off to the airport.
As I’m perpetually on a tight budget, in order to make this trip work at all, I had to keep costs to the bare minimum, staying with family and friends when possible. Flying to Poland directly from Montreal was way too expensive, so my first stop was home to New York for a brief visit with some family and friends. From NY I could get RT to Milan fairly cheap, and very cheap Ryan Air connections from there to Krakow. (After Unsound I’ll be spending the week in Venice to research some scores by Egisto Macchi, stay tuned for more on that.) My flight to Milan left early Friday evening, but unfortunately, as some of you have no doubt heard, Friday set a record for the most amount of rain to ever fall on NYC in a 24 hour period. Train and subway service suspended, Brooklyn and Queens underwater, for the first time I was happy to be flying out of Newark airport.
I made my flight, and spent most of it editing the next episode of the Sound Propositions (with Patrick Nickleson discussing his book, The Names of Minimalism). After sleeping for an hour or so before my layover in Oslo, I finally touched down in Milano, heading straight to Bicocca for Ieri / Oggi / Domani, a concert-intervention from some of my friends from the Italian scene in an abandoned office building in a formerly industrial neighborhood that’s long been reimagined as a hub for white collar workers. The building will be renovated in a couple of years, and some artists talked their way into being granted studio space there in the meanwhile, further proposing some free concerts open to the public.
Up first was a beautiful piece for wandering brass ensemble, by Renato Grieco aka kNN aka Ron. I’ve gotten to know Ron over the years from my frequent stays in Napoli, one of my favorite cities in the world, with a vibrant creative scene that often goes unnoticed because many people, both in Italy and abroad, tend to write Napoli off, only passing through en route to Pompeii or the Amalfi Coast. So I’ve seen Ron perform in a number of different contexts, from playing upright bass in the context of classical and jazz, manipulating reel-to-reel machines in a quartet with Valerio Tricoli, and various forms of presentation for voice and noise, often very poetic and strange. (For example, see my review of Double Goocher Shop, a collaboration with MP Hopkins, or his solo records for Canti Magnetici.)
So I didn’t know which Ron to expect in Milan the other day, and was blown away by his piece, Studio Doppiopasso, for ten brass instruments. We could hear the soft sustained tones as we entered the building, which sounded like it may have been electronic from a distance, but upon climbing a few flights of stairs and arriving in a large open space was revealed to be various configurations of brass, including french horn and tuba. The various players moved around the space, coming together and moving apart, moving from room to room. Speaking with Ron afterwards, he told me that in rehearsals the previous day, he found the players able to play the music, but had to help them get out the physical identification between the sound and their mouths, understandable given the importance of embouchure to brass instruments, and instead start listening to the sound as it relates to the space it is in. Whatever he told them must have worked, as I found the piece to be performed with great sensitivity, as the brass players made great use of the reverberant space of the cavernous, empty building.
Following this performance of Renato Grieco’s composition were a series of other interventions making use of the space in various ways. Luciano Maggiore alternated between a staccato clicker noises and silence in various rooms, leading the crowd into the more cramped artist studios, where we were greeted by installations from Nicola Ratti (for two voices), Attila Faravelli (live performance and installation), and others. I was also happy to run into friends including Giuseppe Ielasi and Marco Paltrinieri. All in all a very serendipitous few hours in Milan. After dinner with friends and a short nap, I was off the airport and on my way to Krakow.
On to my notes on day one of Unsound 2023!
The first night of Unsound began with WHIZZLECLANK, featuring performances by Negativland & Sue-C, Anna Zaradny, PLF, and Rrose.