event report:
acousmonium in rome

alessandro cipriani
june, 2008

Since the 1950s electroacoustic music has been alive and well in Rome, and continues to thrive, as demonstrated during a recent two-day conference in June of Italian and French electroacoustic musicans. As part of the event, the acousmonium, a loudspeaker orchestra created by François Bayle in 1974 in Paris, resounded in the Roman Palladium Theatre.

An acousmonium rehearsal in Rome

On the first day of the event, composers and technicians of INA-GRM (Institut National AudioVisuel-Groupe de Recherches Musicales) explained to the public how the acousmonium can be used for a performance of acousmatic music. Various examples were played on the acousmonium, which had been installed in a 42-loudspeaker version, and adapted to the characteristics of the theatre. During the workshop, which included Laura Bianchini, Michelangelo Lupone and several GRM personnel, eight young Italian composers, including Luigi Mastandrea, Roberto Musanti, Luca Richelli, Beatrice Lasio, Giulio Benedetti Carboni, Maurizio Alfonsi, Francesco Abbrescia, and Fabio Barbagallo, were instructed by François Bonet, Philippe Dao, and Diego Losa. The young composers learned to perform their pieces using the acousmonium and invent spatial distributions of their compositions, most of which were composed in stereo. In the afternoon, the young composers performed their pieces in an acousmatic concert.

Acousmonium demonstration
From left to right: François Bonet, Diego Losa, Walter Cianciusi (Artistic Production at CRM),
Philippe Dao, Emmanuel Favreau (showing Evolution, the new GRM Tools plug-in),
Maurizio Giri (behind the loudspeaker), Carlo Laurenzi (artistic assistant at CRM),
Alessandro Cipriani, Valerio Murat.

On the second day of the program, the full characteristics of the acousmonium could be heard during a performance of six historical acousmatic pieces by Christian Zanési and François Bonet. In particular, Zanési gave an astonishingly virtuosic display of Ivo Malec's piece Turpituda. Luc Ferrari's Étude Aux Accidents / Étude Aux Sons Tendus, Michel Chion's Sambas Pour un Jour de Pluie, Bernard Parmegiani's La Roue Ferris, François Bayle's Cercles, and Pierre Schaeffer & Pierre Henry's Symphonie pour un Homme Seul were also performed.

The last concert, on June 17th, was dedicated to newly composed Italian and French acousmatic music. The new compositions made a favorable impression on the audience, as the pieces varied greatly from each other. Also, the visibility of performers at the mixer, and the change of lighting displayed on the different loudspeakers (some were red and round, and others were in the form of a tree), dramatically reduced audience "state of anxiety". The "state of anxiety", as defined by Walter Branchi, is a possible side-effect experienced by listeners of acousmatic pieces, who might be missing something, as they are in a theater, facing an empty stage.

Acousmonium speaker array

The first piece on the final program, Les Machines Spirituelles by young composer Valerio Murat, which received a mention at the 2008 Bourges Competition, is based on Marinetti's texts, produced by vocal material from male and female actors, and spatialized on 8-tracks. The second piece, by Alessandro Cipriani, Aqua Sapientiae/Angelus Domini, based on two Gregorian chants and sounds of water processed with the blocks technique, created by the composer, was presented in a special eleven-track version for the acousmonium. The third piece, Appunti dalla Città Oscura by Maurizio Giri, a premier, was an 8-track piece Giri composed that created an intense interaction between synthesized material and processed concrete sounds, and was spatialized with the Hyperspace system, created by the author. The performance of Christian Zanési's L'aube Rouge on the acousmonium unveiled the incredible possibilities that a performer/ composer can achieve by interpreting a stereo piece on a multichannel system based on different qualities of loudspeakers. The contrast between an “alert” electronic “very close” noise on one hand, and the distant sounds of memories of trains, vapours, breath sounds on the other, emphasized those many possibilities. Roger Cochini’s La Schiuma dei Rumori is a very refined piece, and a music of of human, animal, environmental, historical, artificial gestures springing one from the other, a sort of Chanson de Gestes. In Spaces of Mind, an 8-track piece, Daniel Teruggi created an interaction between 4 different concepts of space. The space of the sounds themselves, the space of the sounds in the realm of the work, the space in which the sounds evlove when we listen to them, and the space of the worlds that we invent, through our own imagery, when listening to the piece. In his performance of the piece, Teruggi created a balance between the space created in the eight tracks and the space of the acousmonium.

The two days were a rare informative and stimulating experience for the audience and for the Italian composers who participated in the project.

The event was organized by CRM (Centro Ricerche Musicali) and Nuova Consonanza for Suona Francese, with the aid of French Embassy in Italy, Culturesfrance, Fondazione Nuovi Mecenati Realization: INA–GRM (Institut National AudioVisuel-Groupe de Recherches Musicales, Paris).

Photos by Leonardo Zaccone