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Clear vinyl, edition of 300 copies. The peculiar and relatively unknown musical experiment by Alessandro Mendini, crafted together with a strange company that included supposedly distant outfits like Matia Bazar (chart-topping Italian pop band) and Magazzini Criminali (experimental, highbrow theater collective) and released by a major label that printed a tiny amount of copies.
The opening track “Casa Mia” included random quotes from Cinismo Abitativo, a “poetic” editorial written for the design magazine MODO exactly 40 years ago, April 1979 and that stimulated our desire to celebrate. Alas, on February 18 Mendini’s death caught us by surprise, and what was intended to be the retelling of a brilliant design adventure, which expanded way beyond objects and architecture, became instead a posthumous tribute.
The selection of tracks in Architettura Sussurrante is the manifesto of a design attitude unleashed from the industrial and consumeristic context. and the liner notes introduce us to this definitely poetic intent: “(…) when we close our eyes and try to feel architecture In a way that’s more anthropology than geometry, here comes the scent, the touch, the warmth, the darkness of architecture… (…) if we listen closely to the walls of a room, they speak to us. The walls tell their story, their whispering architecture, the layers of lullabies from all the generations that –in that room– lived and died, their joy and pain. This is the meaning of the tracks on this record: the sound being “aural decor”, the sonic element of a complex architectural experience.
This project evokes multiple references, ranging from Erik Satie’s Musique d'ameublement to Brian Eno’s ambient music or music that defines a space and doesn’t need to be listened to. But also music –as told by John Cage– music that is finally allowed to exist beyond its composer’s existence, giving sound the freedom to just be itself". If we try to define a category for Architettura Sussurrante we can imagine some kind of angular and story-telling pop, far removed from the charts but also from a conventional idea of experimental music. The loose shape of such collective effort becomes an ironic yet influential manifesto.
We get to witness many different means of expression: Magazzini Criminali stage a theater piece as audio-drama, in Arredo Vestitivo Maurizio Marsico pieces together a tongue-in-cheek radio commercial through a Dadaist cut-up, and Mendini’s nursery rhyme “La casa è la casa è la casa è” is spun into a frenzied electro-pop by Matia Bazar which reminds us that the Eighties had just begun.
The 2019 edition of the Alessandro Mendini’s album is faithful to the original without being a replica. The packaging has been retooled by New York designer Lapo Belmestieri into a glossier, sharper version: a place that is revisited three decades later and paid homage to. The “cathodic” image is brought into focus as a way to state today’s relevance of the project.
Also, Mauro Sabbione (who composed the track Casa Mia using fragments of the Mendini’s op-ed) offers an expanded and oblique version that this time around takes advantage of the entire transcript. On both tracks, one released in 1983 and the other in 2019, a voice emulator recites the lyrics, and the difference between technologies is startling: today’s computers are both eloquent and soothing.