Many commentators may be declaring that this dialogue between the Gregorian chant and artificially produced sounds that have been manipulated, integrated and circulated by a computer is a mystical experience of the fifty-two year old composer from Rimini, Luigi Ceccarelli (a long time resident in Rome). It is instead a spatial experience, in the sense of an “alien” outer space experience as well as an experience of electro-acoustic music that in a very open way, with admirable expertise and attention to detail, has been created in harmony with, for example, the historical technological music of Maderna (see his piece “Serenata per un satellite” 1969), and the most recent ambient music of Brian Eno. Luigi Ceccarelli has recorded the wonderful Gregorian chants performed by Giacomo Baroffio, Kim En Ju, the 96 Kantores and the Sorores choir, and he has transformed them with his machines, while preserving their evocative attraction, in order to set off on a layman’s moving, thrilling and intimate journey through the cosmos.
(Mario Gamba – Il Manifesto, Alias 17th September 2005)
… At the heart of Ceccarelli’s interventions we can discover a “poetry of reverberation”: a focussing on the micro-variations of timbre that the sacred atmosphere (in Exsultet this is the Abbey of Fossanova) confers to the voice and that are normally too rapid to be perceived. The result – a demanding listening experience but one which certainly communicates a mystical energy – has the flavour, not at all consolatory, of a difficult journey through the unknown realms of the cosmos towards God, among elongated sidereal notes, whispered prayers and the floating motes of dust of daily life. The contribution of Giacomo Baroffio as the performer and privileged interlocutor of Ceccarelli is fundamental for the creation of this music.
(m.r.z. – Amadeus, October 2005)
Even with the CD still unwrapped, the questions already begin: where can the Roman liturgical chant and electronic elaboration meet? Is this a rape of the traditional or its evolution? Is this the right way to reconsider the idea of the sacred in music? But then the CD reader gets going and its laser-powered electronics take control of reproducing the composition at supersonic speed … One’s eyes close naturally (not because of lethargy), the music starts to flow like a massage and one’s critical judgment is fortunately dispersed and lost.
The description of Luigi Ceccarelli’s brilliant contribution to the unending tradition of elaboration of the so-called “Gregorian” corpus could thus end here. But the questions we asked before are still there, demanding a reply. First of all, how can we reconcile the ancient chants of the Roman church with electronics? I would say that we must go to the root of the sound. The voice, in this repertoire, searches for resonances in the very fibres of the performer and is broken up by the mysterious acoustics of the cathedral. Similarly the electronic elaboration takes control of the vibration and “recreates” it by selecting and amplifying arbitrary aspects of the sound. These are two different pathways which are however bound together in the processes of modification and elaboration of the elementary physical components of music.
Let us pass on to the next question: Is this a rape of the traditional or its evolution? Franco Masotti, in his introductory notes to the disc, describes “… the evolution of the passages, starting from the destructuring of the sounds and timbres of the original material which is fragmented and then projected into the physical and mental listening space, with a slow and inexorable accumulation of energy.” But what would we change in this definition if it referred, let us say, to the Ecce Ancilla Domini of Johannes Ockeghem or any of the thousands of motets and masses composed in a counterpoint elaboration of Gregorian motifs? One could quite well say that this repertoire has been so extensively exploited and “raped” for centuries as regards its rhythm and sonorities, the use of its texts, harmonic effects and vocal timbres that today the work of Ceccarelli could even be considered as not going far enough: the artificial extension of the resonances and reverberations, the deformation of the timbres to create evocative harmonics and the conversion of these western “mantras” into Tibetan chants are comparable to the furious syncopations of the fourteenth century which went so far that they provoked a papal bull of condemnation!
To conclude with our last question: Is this the right way to reconsider the idea of the sacred in music? It is by no means the only way, but it is certainly one of the most interesting. The boundaries of spirituality are always involved in a dialectic game with those of concrete experience and the multi-faceted nature of the electronic sound is typical, as few other elements are, of the atmosphere of our times. The voice is now subjected to electronic recording and elaboration on a daily basis, so how can any forms of music (including sacred music) shrink back or draw away from such treatment and modification? If confirmation is needed, it is sufficient to point to the presence of Giacomo Baroffio, a researcher who safeguards the ancient Christian traditions of song and plainchant, as a performer on this record and travelling companion on Luigi Ceccarelli’s visionary and adventurous journey.
Carlo Boschi © Copyright 2004 – Biblio-net.com – 16th June 2005