[music:] Carmelo Bene, Lectura Dantis (1981)
Do I really have to explain who Carmelo Bene – or C.B., as his friend Gilles Deleuze used to refer to him in his writings – was? A performer, theatre and cinema experimenter, philosopher, criminal, professional provocateur, he’s been one of the most controversial yet influential Italian artists in the past century. Try reading his obituary on The Guardian or his Wikipedia page (in italian) for a glimpse of his life and work.
On August 2nd, 1980, an infamous fascist bomb attack at the train station in Bologna killed 85 people and injured more than 200. Perhaps the most sensational act in the Strategy of tension, gone down in history as “strage di Bologna” (“Bologna massacre”). One year later, on 31st July, 1981, Carmelo Bene delivered a public reading with selected cantos of the Divine Comedy to an audience of more than 100.000 people from the Torre degli Asinelli, one of Bologna’s main monuments and the tallest medieval tower in Italy, to commemorate the first anniversary of the bombing.
Pursuing his lifetime goal of establishing theatre as an acte vide, Carmelo was then perfecting his mutation into a “macchina attoriale” (“acting machine”), completely uprooting the voice from the body that produces it and magnifying it through heavy amplification, mixing and electronic processing, so that the obtrusive speaking subject is replaced by a device in which the actor and the equipment can’t be separated.
This process had begun with his magnificent Manfred after Byron/Schumann, first staged at La Scala in Milan in 1979, but the outdoor Bologna performance gave him the opportunity to have a powerful rock concert set up to experiment with. Reading from a tower’s window, virtually invisible to the audience, he appeared as a sheer sound presence, an air sculptor shaping the space. And, yeah, this is music to me. (Ok, the record actually includes some short entr’actes by sicilian contemporary classic composer Salvatore Sciarrino, but the real score here are Dante’s lines, while the voice of Carmelo rules as the the most versatile instrument.)
Here is the tracklist:
01, Canto V (“5th canto”)
02, Canto XXVI (“26th canto”)
03, Canto XXXIII (“33rd canto”)
04, Canto VI (6th canto”)
05, Canto VIII (8th canto”)
06, Canto XXIII (“23rd canto”)
07, Canto XXVII (“27th canto”)
08, Canto VII (“7th canto”)
09, Sonetti (“sonnets”)
The immortal words that Carmelo pronounces at the end of the last track are: “Io mi scuso per il vento che ha turbato questa dizione, questo canto e, sebbene ringrazi gli astanti, ricordo un po’ a tutti che ho dedicato questa mia serata, da ferito a morte, non ai morti, ma ai feriti dell’orrenda strage” (“i apologize for the wind which troubled this reading, this chant, and although thanking the people in the audience, i would remember to everybody that i dedicated this night of mine, as someone wounded to death, not to the dead, but to those injured by the dreadful massacre”).
He eventually died in 2002, at the age of 64.
Two neofascists, Giusva Fioravanti and Francesca Mambro, members of the NAR (a right-wing terrorist group) have been sentenced for life in 1995 as the executors of the attack, while other people – including several former secret service officers and directors – have been found guilty of aid and abet. All of them still claim their innocence.