Tip! In Terry Riley's words "I was invited to an art gallery in Los Angeles to hear a solo String Bass recital by Stefano. I arrived late and the concert was in progress, I was walking down a series of concrete halls to reach the galley chamber where the music was taking place. In the distance I could hear the sounds of french horns, trombones, strings and brass all mixing in a beautiful modal ensemble, and at the time I thought that Stefano must be playing his bass with a chamber group. I was amazed when I entered the gallery to find Stefano all alone playing his bass ... "
Organum for Stefano, the third record that I Dischi di Angelica dedicates to the work of Terry Riley, represents a significant example of “coming full circle”: indeed, in 1997 AngelicA Festival organized a concert in Bologna for Terry Riley and Stefano Scodanibbio – it was their first tour together, and the beginning of a collaboration that would last for years, promoting their first album Lazy Afternoon Among the Crocodiles (AIAI 008), recorded in the Shri Moonshine studio in Riley’s home between 1994 and 1995. After his magnificent piano solo at the 2000 edition, AngelicA invited Riley back in 2013 to dedicate a special tribute-portrait to him, presenting his music in a series of concerts held in three different cities (Bologna, Modena, and Lugo), with different line-ups: The 3 Generations Trio (with Tracy Silverman and Gyan Riley, documented on the record IDA 034); the ARTE saxophone quartet from Switzerland; and indeed a concert, commissioned as a world premiere, dedicated to Stefano Scodanibbio who had passed away the year before, in January 2012.
The venue selected for the concert was the Basilica of Santa Maria dei Servi, hence Riley decided to use its historic Tamburini opus 544 pipe organ for the concert paying homage to the memory of Stefano. The organ was built in 1968 based on a design by Luigi Ferdinando Tagliavini, with a total of approximately 5000 pipes divided into 60 registers – incidentally, this is the same instrument used four years later in 2017 by Francesco Filidei in his duet with Roscoe Mitchell, documented on the record Splatter (IDA 040), and in 2019 by Hermann Nitsch on the record Orgelkonzert (IDA 045).
As Riley himself explains in the liner notes: “I arrived in Bologna with no idea of what I would play, only thinking that I would make this concert a reflection on our deep association, friendship, and music adventures together. I was given a few days prior to the concert to rehearse and compose ideas on the ancient organ. These were magical times for me to also imbibe the resonances of the history of the Basilica and its organ as I composed. Stefano and I had a long history of touring and playing concerts together and one of the features of our concerts was always an arrangement of a vocal raga for bass, voice and tamboura. Stefano, although not trained in Indian Classical music, had an uncanny ear for the right choices in pitch and rhythm to accompany my traditional vocal renditions. Two of Stefano’s favourite ragas were Malkauns and Bageshri, late night ragas with deep feelings ideally suited to the profound sounds emanating from his string bass. The concert was completely improvised, introducing the melodies of ragas Malkauns and Bageshri, both vocally and in the harmonized organ passages of an intuitively structured form. The last section is an improvisation upon the passages of my composition Simply M..., a piece I frequently played for Stefano”.
The result was a very precious concert – the only official recording of Riley on the pipe organ – which ranges from minimalism to Indian music, grandiose Bachian architectural constructions, even progressive echoes – in a kaleidoscopic flow of ideas which, both spontaneously and with a great clarity of intention, travels through topical moments and reminiscences of the respective musical identities and experiences shared by the two musicians. Organum for Stefano is release n. 50 by the label i dischi di angelica, which celebrates its 30 years of activity in 2022