Walter Branchi's words
October 2008

As the first event of Ear to the Earth 2008, Ecstatic Static, a concert of works by Walter Branchi, will take place on Thursday, October 9, at New York Friends Meeting House in New York City. Branchi's music creates a soft, calm, and beautiful ambience for thought and awareness in which his sounds become part of the space and the music, in his words, "without beginning or end loses its own borders and becomes part of the world around it." We asked Branchi to share his thoughts about music and about the upcoming program.

More on Walter Branchi's concert

Branchi's words:

The silence of the Friends in their meetings has always fascinated me, as has their capacity for concentration in searching for the inner voice. During the ritual observance, the silence is so complete that even the flight of a fly becomes a perceptible sound. It set me to thinking. Would it be possible to listen, at one and the same time, to the silence, the background noise of the city and a musical composition that weaves them all together, with the same silence, the same intensity and presence that happens in a Friends Meeting? With these compositions, I am addressing this question to all those who attend this concert.

Walter Branchi: Speaking a few words

Ecstatic Static consists of three pieces chosen for a single event from Intero, a collection of works finished and in process now for many years. I'll describe the compositions.

Sensibile, which means 'Sensitive' in English, is for electronic sounds that are so ambient, so faint, that they do not surpass in intensity the sound of a fly. And it is so non-invasive and impalpable that it just barely tinges the background noise of the city.

Ora, di Terra, which means 'Now, of the earth', is also for electronic sounds, but this work is the fruit of an elaborate counterpoint fabric that enhances the transformation of the individual 'voices', emphasizing their plasticity. There is also a version that includes two soprano voices, but I chose the version made with computer sounds for this occasion because the invisibility of performers makes the sounds seem to come from nowhere to fill the air.

Shapes of the Wind (Volturnus – Favonius – Aquilo – Auster) is for solo cello and electronic sounds, and I'd like to say that it was a really deep pleasure to work with Madeleine Shapiro on this. For a long period in my life, I was interested in horticulture and in particular I worked with roses. Four of the intermediate points on the wind rose are Volturnus (the wind of the southeast), Favonius (the wind of the west), Aquilo (the wind of the northwest), and Auster (the wind of the south). I applied those thoughts to the cello. Even though a wind is always a wind, the direction from which it blows sets the cello strings vibrating in a different way. That's the way I worked with Madeleine. The result is extraordinary.

The two different kinds of sound, the cello producing a sound from a physical source and my equipment producing electronic sounds are both subject to the same harmonic principles. This means that the music they generate is the expression of a homogeneous system of intervals. In Ora, di Terra, the electronic sounds are interwoven with those of the cello and together they form a single sound fabric. The very low frequencies of the synthesized sounds provide the base on which the cello sounds are set, and together they create a tonal continuum in which the cello becomes the soul – and the breath – of the composition.

In general, though, I'd like to say this about my music.

It's not about an audience isolated in a concert hall. On the contrary, what I propose is a listening experience, an experience of music that is integrated with the world, that is heard through the complexity of the live existing sounds and noises of the location in which it is played. And vice versa, a music that leads us to hear the sounds of and around the location in which it is played.

So, in other words, my music is intended not just to be heard. It is actually music that I think of as a means for listening. By this I mean that it is conceived as open, as a collaboration with the sounds of the surrounding environment.