A few decades ago some researchers of popular traditions visited Barcellona Pozzo di Gotto (ME). They looked for some elderly people to collect the popular songs of the place. A vinyl recording was made. We ignored its existence until, rummaging in the basement, among various junk, the disc came out.
A song struck us: Misereri mei, a fragment of a popular song on the Latin text of Psalm 50 (Miserere mei). Until a few years ago it was sung on Holy Thursday by the faithful visiting the “sepulchres”.
The formal aspect is not linked to the piece, except as an emotional cue for improvisation. On that material we created two songs: Misereri and Mismedo. So a double parallelism between the four songs: two on Agni Parthene and two on Miserere, as already mentioned in the post in which we talked about the structure of the entire album.
Mismedo is a word taken from the initials of MISere MEi DOmine. The inspiration comes from the discovery of the aforementioned album, which contains a Sicilian version of this song and which will be the protagonist of the last track of the album.
If Agni Parthene was characterized by the contrasts of the elements, Mismedo presents itself as its opposite: the intangibility of the sound, the nuances, the ethereal changes in sound climates are the protagonists of this piece that transports us to almost mystical places of feeling.
The piece begins with a suspended atmosphere created by electronic sounds to which the nuanced whistle tones of the soprano and bass flutes played by the instrumentalists are soon added. For about six minutes an unstoppable crescendo is mounted with an accumulation of sounds produced by the instrumentalists and reverberated and delayed by the electronics that leads to a section in which Carmen Mazzeo's flute performs in virtuosic melodic arabesques.
Meanwhile, Francesco Lipari, who has switched to percussion, converses with the flute emphasizing the moment with plays of color created by percussion, cymbals and drums mainly, but played with extended techniques.
Around the seventh minute an electronic elaboration of a recorder creates the sensation of a new instrument: this is what is called an "augmented instrument": an electronic elaboration of traditional instruments that amplify their technical and expressive potential. All this is accompanied by the pizzicati of the bass flute.
At the ninth minute a hint of a heavy and mysterious melody that tries to emerge and make its way through the sounds. But soon it is engulfed in an unreal atmosphere that is recreated by the transformation of the whistle tones we had heard before: it is not yet time for the melody to make itself present and come out in a real way, it will be the last song that will bring us towards this destination in a path designed to make you travel to discover the sounds and thoughts of Fracargio.
It's a lazy August afternoon. Dario and Francesco meet to start recording Fracargio's new single.
The material produced is not bad, good first take. But something makes them dissatisfied. The sound of the various “friscaletti” (sicilian recorder instruments), overdubbed and combined with electronics, lacks something.
Dario's bookcase has a beautiful section dedicated to Sicilian culture in which a poetic anthology in several volumes stands out. Francesco well knows it because he has it too. He opens the volume dedicated to the sixteeth century and the first poem that leaps to the eye is by an unknown poet, Tubiolo Benfare.
"Let's do another take," says Francesco.
"This time use the cane flute you made yourself" suggests Dario.
"But it's crude! Hard to manage!"
"Better this way, it's more authentic".
The piece Fa focu amuri comes out based on that poem. Poetry is added to the sound of instruments and electronics, read, screamed, sung, whispered, processed with electronics, dissected until it becomes pure sound.
Listening again they realize that the song recorded first used the same melodic fragments as this one. Now the two songs have that something that was missing and that satisfies the authors. They decide to add a poem by Antonio Veneziano that seems to fit perfectly. A verse of the poem gives the title to the piece, Morti duci.
Sicilian literature will be the theme of this track and the album that will follow. And there will be many musicians involved. So far, alongside Dario T. Pino (electronics, synths, programming) and Francesco Lipari (flutes, vocals, percussion) have participated: Carmen Mazzeo (baroque flutes), Carmelo Giambò (accordion), Giovanni Alibrandi (violin), Alessandro Monteleone (guitar). The recording sessions will resume in the spring with other artists.
Will it satisfy you too?
One day Dario T. Pino and Francesco Lipari invite for lunch Giovanni Arena, a double bass player from Catania with whom they share their compositional training with Alessandro Solbiati.
Giovanni was thrilled with the idea of improvising with them. From that meeting the single Agni Parthene was born, based on a non-liturgical Orthodox devotional song dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
Why an Orthodox chant? The deep roots of Sicily are Greek and until the Romanization of the rite also the liturgy and faith were Greek-Byzantine. It has a symbolic, not a scientific meaning. We talked more about it in the previous article.
Francesco, multi-instrumentalist, chooses the bass flute: melodic fragments of the piece are recomposed to lead to the literal quotation of the melody, several times, in the finale. It is like a puzzle that arises from the individual pieces which, piled up on a table, do not give the idea of the final picture, if not for some detail.
The piece is nourished by contrasts: tradition and modernity, transcendence and immanence, polyphony and monody, voice and instrument. Contrasts that run throughout the piece, at times exalted and at other times canceled (as if to give that sense of inner serenity so longed for).
A bordone is the background to the whole piece. It is A note sung on a very low A that sometimes disappears, others emerges, others dominates everything else. From the bordone the two instruments, double bass and bass flute, emerge, playing only noises with every possible means: with the bow beaten, rubbed, with the breath in the instrument, in short, the entire body of the instrument becomes a sounding board. The choice of noise is deliberate and strong. If we think about it, the noise was born well before the sound. They are noises that we hear for the most part around us; noises are what the first instruments ever built – the percussions - produce.
The double bass begins the piece. Around the first minute, the breath of the flute is added which becomes an amplification of the performer's breath, or rather of the breathing, that is, of life. From here and for four minutes, the performers show off their technical and expressive skill by building a sort of counterpoint between the instruments. An emotional crescendo seasoned with the reverberations and resonances of electronics.
Immediately afterwards the bordone is silent for about a minute and a half; the instruments emerge continuing the path of approaching the sound, the melody, which finally reveals itself in its severe and hieratic majesty at minute 6:22. It is the apotheosis of melodic conquest. All the sound components of the piece come together in a sort of sonic orgy that goes out in the same initial silence.