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Best of 2024

Alessandra Novaga

The Artistic Image Is Always a Miracle (LP)

Label: Die Schachtel

Format: LP

Genre: Experimental

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€25.00
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**Edition of 300, turquoise vinyl, 180 gr. heavyweight LP + extensive booklet** Furthering the passionate exploration of cinema that has guided her two previous LPs - 2017’s ‘Fassbinder Wunderkammer’ and 2020’s ‘I Should Have Been a Gardener’ - the Milanese guitarist/composer, Alessandra Novaga, returns to Die Schachtel with ‘The Artistic Image Is Always a Miracle’, two sides off shimmering, tense compositions – culminating as one of her most creatively ambitious and conceptually rich outings to date – freely inspired by the life and work of the Russian director Andrej Tarkovsky and the music of Johann Sebastian Bach.

Classically trained at the Musik Akademie in Basel, Switzerland, over the last decade Alessandra Novaga has emerged as one of the leading figures within northern Italy’s thriving new, experimental, and improvised music scene, rendering striking solo efforts, in addition to collaborations with Loren Connors, Stefano Pilia, Elliott Sharp, Nicola Ratti, Paula Matthusen, Sandro Mussida, Kid Millions, Travis Just, Francesco Gagliardi, and others. Remarkably ambitious and forward thinking, her approach to the guitar embarks upon a relentless deconstruction and rethinking of her instrument’s unique properties through distinct applications of structure, resonance, space, and tone, creating in a deeply personal and emotive music, seeking narrative and meaning within the abstractions of sound.

In 2017, with the LP, ‘Fassbinder Wunderkammer’, issued by Setola Di Maiale, Novaga embarked upon the exploration of her love of film. Having begun with Rainer Werner Fassbinder, this was followed in 2020 by Die Schachtel’s release of ‘I Should Have Been a Gardener’, a deeply intimate mediation on the life and work of Derek Jarman. Rather than focusing on a fixed point of inspiration or a single film to work from, these pieces achieve a form of abstract portraiture, distilling elements drawn from these filmmaker’s life and work into ambient networks of texture and tonality. ‘The Artistic Image Is Always a Miracle”’ freely inspired by the Russian director Andrej Tarkovsky and the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, finds Novaga radically expanding her sonic palette within this approach.

The seeds of ‘The Artistic Image Is Always a Miracle’ can be traced to a conversation that Novaga had with Alan Licht (contained in the highly regarded Common Tones: Selected interviews with artists and musicians 1995–2020, Blank Forms, 2021), relating to the connections between music and cinema, which led her to consider Andrej Tarkovsky’s use of Bach's music within a symbiotic framework: how the music illuminates the imagism of the films, and the film illuminates new dimensions of the music. Slowly developing over the subsequent years, the resulting album comprises six individual works, some of which draw directly upon pieces of Bach’s music that Tarkovsky used in his films – specifically 'Erbarme dich, Mein Gott', 'Das alte Jahr vergangen ist', and 'Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ' - while others draw upon the sensibilities and moods evoked in the imagination by the director’s films.

As a point of departure and illumination into the process and spirit that underscored the creation of the album, Novaga points toward a passage in Tarkovsky’s "Sculpting in Time”:

“Art is born and takes hold wherever there is a timeless and insatiable longing for the spiritual, for the ideal: that longing which draws people to art. Modern art has taken a wrong turn in abandoning the search for the meaning of existence in order to affirm the value of the individual for its own sake. What purports to be art begins to look like an eccentric occupation for suspect characters who maintain that any personalized action is of intrinsic value simply as a display of self-will. But in artistic creation the personality does not assert itself, it serves another, higher and communal idea.”

The Artistic Image Is Always a Miracle’ can be understood as a realisation of the collectivism of which Tarkovsky speaks, in the service of something far beyond the expression of self. Encountering Novaga moving into fairly uncharted waters, three of the album’s pieces incorporate the human voice we encounter the voices of others: that of the poet Arsenij Tarkovsky, the director’s father; a singer from Bach’s ‘Erbarme dich, Mein Gott’, capturing a broadcast in an underground parking lot, and Novaga’s own, rendering the melody from Bach’s “Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ”. Roughly alternating between solo excursions on guitar and bristling electroacoustic pieces, over the course of the album’s two sides Novaga weaves one of her most abstract and ambitious bodies of recordings to date, shifting between the complex tonal mediations generated by the six strings of her instrument, and phycological densities activated by the expanded pallet of sonority made possible by the tactics and approaches of musique concrète. 

An immersive, deeply engaging meeting of beauty and melancholy within a labyrinth of voices and ideas, ‘The Artistic Image Is Always a Miracle’ transfigures the life and work of Andrej Tarkovski – one of the greatest auteurs in the history of cinema – into a singular, experimental statement of collective truth.
Belonging to recent, ambitious stream of contemporary new music releases on Die Schachtel that’s already included Novaga’s ‘I Should Have Been a Gardener’, Stefano Pilia’s ‘Spiralis Aurea’, Jim O'Rourke & Giovanni Di Domenico’ ‘Immanent In Nervous Activity’, Claudio Rocchetti’s ‘Labirinto Verticale’, and Damāvand’s ‘As Long As You Come To My Garden’, among others, ‘The Artistic Image Is Always a Miracle’ is available on as a limited edition of 300 dark turquoise vinyl LPs released on June 21, 2024. The LP, designed by Bruno Stucchi / dinamomilano, comes with an 8-pages insert illuminated by Alessandra’s text as well as the lovely and intense photographs of Matilde Piazzi.
 

Details
Cat. number: DSZEIT18
Year: 2024