Posts Tagged ‘bologna’
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.
A revolutionary avant-folk storyteller, an arte povera experimental performer, an “oggettista corpofonista” (“objectist bodyphonist”) as he defines himself, Enzo Del Re or Delre – as spelled on this album’s cover – born in 1944 in Mola di Bari, Apulia, South-East of Italy, has been one of the few italian artists, together with Francesco Currà, to apply to music, maybe unknowingly, the well-known Jean-Luc Godard’s plea: “it’s not about making political films, but rather making films politically” (I’m quoting by heart).
A restive anarchist, soon after graduating at the local conservatory he abandoned the academy to pursue a personal and unique musical language caught between roots and modernity, coherence and contradiction, folk singleness and cultured experimentalism, joined in his research by the ethnomusicologist Antonio Infantino; as a proletarian musician who merely had at his disposal his own sheer working force, his hands, his arms, his legs, Del Re chose to play only significant found objects and recycled materials, used as percussion instruments – mostly chairs, as a nonverbal and sorrowful protest against electrocution and death penalty in general, or a suitcase, as in Vittorio Franceschi’s Qui tutto bene… e così spero di te (“things are fine here… and so i hope with you”, 1971), a theatrical play about “emigration and imperialism” – and clicking his tongue and beating his own body and face. A radical, marginal sound worker, who in the Seventies used to take three shifts a day, playing two gigs for free at occupied factories, schools, universities, and getting for the last one a metal worker’s daily minimum wage. The same continuous and monotonous rythm he used as sole accompaniment to his songs seemed produced by a clapped out assembly line.
Il banditore (“the town crier”) – released in 1974 after his experiences with Dario Fo’s theatrical company Nuova scena (“new stage”) and at the legendary Derby Club in Milan with Enzo Jannacci, and following his 1973 debut album Maul (“Mola” in local dialect) – is a full and detailed report about the work of this postindustrial agit-prop cantastorie who tirelessly travelled all over the country, spreading his word and critically supporting the revolutionary movement.
The record testified his immutable and hieratic style, seemingly coming from an ancient past or from a far future, inducing a sort of ecstatic experience by iterativity; an uninterrupted stream which made live together tarantella with musique concrète, The Last Poets with his hometown fishermen’s screaming (even if Enzo’s voice tone and the way he offers lyrics remind insistently of Luigi Tenco). However, there are moments which stand out of the flow, as the title track with its comics’ onomatopoeias and the siren in the end, between an anti-aircraft alarm and a factory hooter; the ritual latin mixed with real and fake advertising claims of “Laudet et benedicitet (Infantino)”; the ironic thirdworldist namedropping of “Comico”: hints of a sadly unaccomplished mediterranean cannibalism – in the sense of the Manifesto Antropófago by Oswald de Andrade, which inspired the Tropicália movement. And, of course, the dazzling dyptich of “Lavorare con lentezza” and “Tengo ‘na voglia e fa niente”, written in an hotel room in Bologna, which represents one of the most revolutionary anti-work statements ever.
Here is the tracklist:
01, Il banditore (“the town crier”)
02, Lavorare con lentezza (“working slowly”)
03, Tengo ‘na voglia e fa niente (“i feel like doin’ nuthin'”)
04, Laudet et benedicitet (Infantino)
05, La fretta (“the hurry”)
06, La sopravvivenza (“the survival”)
07, Il superuomo (“the superman”)
08, Voglio fare il boia (“i wanna be a hangman”)
09, Scimpanzè (“chimpanzee”)
10, La 124 (“the 124”, referring to a FIAT car model)
11, Comico (“funny”)
12, La rivoluzione (“the revolution”)
Get it: Enzo Delre, Il banditore (1974)
Unbeknown to him, “Lavorare con lentezza” was used as broadcasts’ opening and closing signature tune by Radio Alice, the movement’s pirate radio in Bologna, from 1976 until March 12th, 1977, the day after the killing of the student Francesco Lorusso by a carabiniere during a streetfight, when the police burst in the studios and terminated transmissions.
In 2004, Guido Chiesa directed a movie about the story of Radio Alice, titled Lavorare con lentezza and featuring the song in its soundtrack. This led to a short-lived rediscovery of Del Re’s work, which anyway didn’t particularly affect his semi-retirement, as for the tribute that fellow musicians such as Eugenio Bennato, Daniele Sepe, and Etnoritmo paid him covering or sampling his songs.
He still plays concerts occasionally, where his self-produced tapes or cd-r’s are available to buy. You can happen to meet him around his hometown’s port, where he usually sits with old fishermen speaking, drinking, and playing cards.
Bologna 1977, “Skank Bloc Bologna”: the boiling point. Communist party as the establishment. Autonomia Operaia, Dams (the art and music faculty). The student Francesco Lorusso killed by the police. Indiani metropolitani, Radio Alice, situationism. Wrenches in the pockets. Pop culture is the weapon. Lambrusco wine and plegin. And sedatives. And heroin. Tortellini punk. The rise of post-modernism.
Traumfabrik was the name of a squatted flat in the center of the city, part house, part art studio, part club. People like Filippo Scozzari and Andrea Pazienza – members of “Cannibale” comics ‘zine’s crew and later founders of the seminal magazine “Frigidaire” – Renato De Maria, Oderso Rubini, and many others kids from the scene used to live, work, perform, or just gather there to meet people, listen to music, enjoy drugs, and have fun. Among them, the Ramones-fixated, leather-jacketed young guys who were soon to form the one-song, one-show punk sensation Centro d’urlo metropolitano (“metropolitan scream center”).
Their 25th September 1977 few minutes live appearance performing “Mamma dammi la benza” (“mommy gimme the fuel”) during a festival in Bologna, ending up in a paper balls fight between the stage and the audience, is a landmark in italian pop history, and anticipated the official breakthrough of “rock demenziale” (“demented rock”), a peculiar italian contribution to post-punk history whose most important representatives have been Skiantos, another band from the area.
Anyway, Centro d’urlo metropolitano was soon to mutate into a whole different thing. When their anthem was eventually released on the miscellaneous tape Sarabanda, the guys now known as Gaznevada (a name inspired by a Raymond Chandler’s short story) were already experimenting with sound and lyrics under the influence of acts such as Devo, Talking Heads, Pere Ubu and Contortions, evolving from their early raw and unorganized two-chords punk-rock attack towards the unique and amazing spaghetti-no wave of their masterpiece debut album Sick Soundtrack (1980).
Oderso Rubini, who had recently started his own label Harpo’s Music, taped them during their 1979 rehearsals, documenting the stunning work in progress which would have led to their first full-length effort. Gaznevada was the result of these sessions, and the seventh issue of the label. What you can find here is a band strugglin’ to find their true voice, between the disconnected upbeat of “Everybody enjoy with reggae music”, and the fascinating, sharp, lirically intriguing manifesto “Nevadagaz”, re-recorded for their legendary first 7″ in 1980. It’s the birth of a legend.
Here is the tracklist:
01, Everybody enjoy with reggae music
02, Criminale (“criminal”)
03, Donna di gomma (“rubber woman”)
04, Bestiale (“bestial”)
05, Mamma dammi la benza (“mommy gimme the fuel”)
06, Teleporno T.V. (“porn channel T.V.”)
07, Johnny (fallo per me) (“Johnny (do it for me)”)
Get it: Gaznevada, Gaznevada aka Cassetta Harpo’s (1979)
[edit March 9th, 2009: thanks to our friends at Shake Edizioni this tape is finally available on cd, with the title Mamma dammi la benza!, together with a short book about Gaznevada and the video Telepornovisione by Giampiero Huber, Renato De Maria and Emanuele Angiuli. Obviously the download link has been removed. Go and buy it at the publishing house’s website.]
Gaznevada released four albums before breaking up in 1988, progressively shifting towards italo disco and synthpop. They joined Edoardo Bennato for his 1980’s Uffà uffà, and played gigs with the likes of DNA, Chrome, Lounge Lizards, Bauhaus. Their 1983 hit “I.C. Love Affair” is a club classic and has been recently remixed by Munk for the Confuzed Disco compilation (2006). Former guitarist Ciro Pagano (aka E. Robert Squibb) is a founding member of the successful italo-house outfit Datura.
Harpo’s Music would have soon become Italian Records – together with IRA from Florence THE italian new wave label, hosting the likes of Gaznevada, Skiantos, Windopen, Sorella maldestra, Luti Chroma, Confusional Quartet, The Stupid Set, Kirlian Camera, Johnson Righeira, Monofonic Orchestra, N.O.I.A., Art Fleury, A.I.M., Neon, Hi-Fi Bros, etc. Gems from Italian’s back catalogue (such as Gaznevada’s Sick Soundtrack) are being reprinted by Oderso Rubini’s new label Astroman.