Avant-garde and experimental musics are intrinsically connected to community, collectivism, support, and collaboration. Audiences and artists, stretching to every corner of the globe, continuously rely on each other to push into ever more ambitious realms. This spirit of discourse has always been central to the multigenerational contexts of avant-garde and experimental music from Italy. For decades, neglected and over looked by their international peers, the country’s musicians and fans spoke heavily amongst themselves, creating an entirely singular territory of sound, almost entirely unheard by the outside world. Fortunately, over the last decade or so, a slow trickle of reissues have begun to change all that, bringing the emerging recordings and their creators wide acclaim, but there’s still a long way to go. Much of the attention has drifted toward the output of artists and scenes from the north of the country, leaving a great deal of important work lingering in obscurity. A brand new CD box set - L'Incantesimo della Soglia, Avanguardie musicali a Napoli, has set out to change all that. Collecting works by four composers, all belonging to an interconnected group of artists, from Naples - Luciano Cilio, Girolamo De Simone, Eugenio Fels, and Gabriele Montagano, spanning the past and present, it offers an incredible window into the city’s remarkable experimental endeavours over the last four decades, and is an essential artifact for any fan of Italian border music and avant-garde musics.
The unquestionable glue which binds the artist and works featured within L'Incantesimo della Soglia Avanguardie musicali a Napoli is Luciano Cilio - arguably Naples most important voice in late 20th Century avant-garde music. He produced one astounding album in his lifetime - Dialoghi Del Presente, issued by EMI in 1977, and reissued by Die Schachtel in 2004 as the extended double LP, Dell'Universo Assente, in 2004, before taking his own life. The album remains an unchallenged high-water marks of Italian Minimalism - an expanse of open air and constraint, threaded by overwhelmingly beautiful melodic intervention. After decades with nothing more, last year saw the release of I Nastri Ritrovati - an LP of previously unheard works by Cilio from the years leading up to Dialoghi Del Presente, collected by Girolamo De Simone, and taken from the reel to reel masters by Eugenio Fels. It was a true gift, brought into the world in the spirit of great music and collectivism, selling out nearly as quickly as it came. L'Incantesimo della Soglia, Avanguardie musicali a Napoli takes the recordings of I Nastri Ritrovati as their departure point - reissuing them within this box, and extending their reach toward the group of friends and collaborators which brought them to be. In addition to Cilio’s long lost recordings - thankfully available again, we are treated to a new body of work by the pianist, composer and musicologist, Girolamo De Simone, who many will know from his album Shama, issued by Die Schachtel back in 2008. Simone is an advocate of the avant-garde notion of ‘border music” - a concept which can be heavily observed within Italian Minimalism, which focuses on functionalism, combining multiple musical genre’s and global sources, to create new radical forms. His contribution to the set, Monteverdi - Pianocloud per Spinetta, Pianoforte e Calcolatore, is a body of works which range from minimal piano efforts, to deep, complex multi-instrumental works for voice, acoustic instruments, and electronics. Using the human emotions of anger, moderation and humility or supplication as departure points for composition represented by high, medium and low registers - the totality of which sculpts new and vast expanses of tense ambience and creative ambition, which have long marked the Italian avant-garde as one of the most visionary body of sound we can call to mind. The third disc of the set features a brilliant work by a the little know composer Gabriele Montagano, Evento - a composition for a quartet of voices with cello, saxophone, and trombone, from 1986. Incredibly tense and tightly wound - much closer to what we imagine when we think of the words “avant-garde”’ it represents an important opening into the range and depth of practice occurring in Naples during the years it was composed - an alternate view and perspective which widens the sense of possibility held by the entire collection. Voice abrading at instrument and ambience. Instrument and ambience, abrading at voice.
In near perfect counterpoint, these wilder excursions by Montagano are offset by the the final disc of L'Incantesimo della Soglia Avanguardie musicali a Napoli, which takes on a body of work by the composer and pianist Eugenio Fels, falling under the title of Chanson. Rippling piano lines fill the air, once again rethinking the possibly of what contemporary Italian music is and was. Yet another fantastic release of important Italian music, and an essential entry into the canon of Italian Minimalism and avant-garde musics. Highly recommended on every count.