Chain D.L.K.: First off, yesterday you were just another improviser in the ocean of independent musicians striving to emerge, and now you make it onto arespected label like Extreme. What happened in the meanwhile? (and did itchange anything?)
Claudio Parodi: First of all I would like to tell how it went with Extreme.I adore the label since I got my copy of The Night Before the Death of theSampling Virus by Yoshihide Otomo. So, when I recorded Horizontal Mover, Ichecked their site, in order to propose them my music. On the site isclearly written: do not send demos, e-mail us and in any case we willcontact you. And they contacted me! So now Horizontal Mover is on Extreme,and I signed a contract with first option for the next six compositions ofthe series, Horizontal Mover being the first. While we were e-mailing aboutdetails, Thomas Buckner’s staff contacted me asking if Tom could visit methe day after the presentation of the new opera by Robert Ashley at BiennaleMusica Venezia. I proposed a two-day recording session, and now a CD ofimprovised music is ready, its name being Unexpected Blending (ThomasBuckner, baritone; Claudio Parodi, feedback), and the CD is now underconsideration by Extreme. The day after I got the first 50 copies ofHorizontal Mover, I left for my very first time to the United States,invited by Tom to present at the First ISIM Conference. I performed The”Producer Speaks” by Robert Ashley. We improvised, and I in turn invited Tomto join me during my own presentation. At the Conference, everybody, bignames included, was friendly and supportive. The night before leaving I hadsupper with Steve Coleman, who sat at my right, and we joked like oldfriends. So, in terms of changes, I have the precise sensation that finallysomething is moving. Which confirms what Barre Phillips, my point ofreference as an improviser, told me many times: keep on doing it! Anotherconsideration: Extreme is based in Australia and ISIM is based in theStates. This reminds me of the Escape From Europe series by Charles Hayward,which will be the seventh homage of my own series. Kind of seems likeclosing the circle, doesn’t it?
Chain D.L.K.: Sure it does–but while many will probably know about your existence afterthose extra-European experiences, when you were still striving to be visibleyou’ve been collaborating with unknown gems of the Italian underground likeAnatrofobia, Ovo and many others. Can you tell me a bit more about it?
Claudio Parodi: Generally talking, I don’t care at all if my collaborationsare with stars or unknowns. What is important to me is the human feeling,and the quality of the music. Talking about the two projects you mentioned.I met Anatrofobia at a concert of theirs in Genova; after the concert I wentto them to give them my congratulations, and they gave me a CD of theirs asa present. So the connection was born. Last February I invited them to playin a series I was organizing in Genova along with my friend AlessandroBuzzi, and Anatrofobia invited me to join them for an improv set. So, aftertheir fantastic program, we had this improv set, which left everybodysatisfied and wanting more. It was just a matter of finding the properoccasion. About Ovo: I was invited by Bruno Dorella and Stefania Pedretti totake part in the sessions for their new project. This was very important tome. Before that, I had thought that a project should be recorded after beingpresented live–which never happened. Recording for Assassine, Ovo’s firstCD, made me change my mind. I discovered the possibility to start a newproject in a recording studio, so Assassine is the first CD in which I’minvolved. I was recording with equipment which needed hours to be set up andtaken down, so it was impossible for me to take part to Ovo’s tours. When Istarted using my actual equipment, I had the occasion to play in two Ovogigs, but after that Bruno and Stefania seemed more interested in keepingOvo as their duo project.
Chain D.L.K.: You come from Liguria, the cradle not only of composers like Scelsi andBerio but also that of De Andrè and many other folk and pop singers. At thesame time I’ve always had the impression that the people from there are notso friendly with musicians or writers coming from the same area (but thatsomehow is typically Italian). Do you think this blatant provincialism isjust negative or does it somehow indirectly push musicans like you to go onfollowing their path with more perseverance?
Claudio Parodi: Well, first of all I would point some level differencesamongst Scelsi, Berio and De Andrè. To me, the first two (especially Scelsi)are masters. De Andrè is a more controversial figure, because he had easybeginnings only because his family is rich, and I like his recordingsbetter. Creuza de Ma’ actually was composed and arranged by Mauro Pagani,and De Andrè just put the vocals on it. I know perfectly that mine is not apopular opinion, but I can’t help telling what I think. About the fightingbetween musicians from the same region–which I would extend to all ofItaly–sad but true, it is mainly a matter of money. If we want to keep tothe same examples, the Italian musical industry invested in De Andrè, andScelsi is released in France. And so De Andrè is a big name in Italy–veryfew know that the music was written by someone else, mainly Ivano Fossati,and that many lyrics are translations from Brassens’ songs–while Scelsi isstill to be fully discovered by an Italian audience–and very few know thathe was born in La Spezia. Both had problems. De Andrè was kidnapped andScelsi was put in the hospital for mental illness, but De Andrè is astar–thanks to his rich father–while Scelsi is a musicians’ musician. Ofcourse the two fields–pop music and contemporary music–do not affect eachother that much economically (and, by the way, Scelsi was from a noblefamily), but when the field is the same, very few are friendly, being pushedby the musical industry to be competitive. Getting back to myself, I gave upvery soon about being competitive, also because to me art has no borders,and I feel equally enriched, whether by a Japanese haiku or by an Africansculpture. So I’m simply outside of any competition, and I like better topromote my music outside of my area in order to be judged by my music andnot by my friends or enemies.
Chain D.L.K.: It looks like you put a lot of stress on the socio-economical context whichnourishes music and musicians, since from what you say you look deeplyinvolved with improvisation. Well, do you think the socio-economic contextof the player is that relevant, or does the aleatory factor [the wordmeans “depending on or relating to luck or chance” -Ed.] in some way weakenthe background of the player? Do you believe a composer/musician can bepolitical as some composers are?
Claudio Parodi: The socio-economical context affects everybody’s everydaylife. In the case of a musician, he should practice as much as possible inorder to play a nice performance. But he needs to buy food, in order to stayalive, and he has to go to someone whose work is selling food, that is,someone who wakes up at five in the morning to buy stuff, and attends to hisown shop all day long. So a right balance would be that both, the musicianand the food-seller, make money enough to survive, or even better, to have adecent life, as both are workers. The only case in which the “aleatoryfactor” (a definition that to me doesn’t fit at all with improvisation,being improvisation to me a state of complete attention, with no space forchance) can weaken the playing of a musician is when jazz musicians olderthan me decide to improvise, that is for them to play jazz without knowingthe changes. Every act of mankind is political. In the case of animproviser, it’s to show in public hours of work at home that can affectsomeone in the audience. In any case, good or bad as the music may be, themusician has the right to be paid for his work, and not for how much beersthe bar sells.
Chain D.L.K.: Thus, what is the socio-economical context that has nourished Mr. Parodi,and what were the milestones in the musical growth of his musical skill?
Claudio Parodi: My interest in music comes from my father’s family. He hadtwo uncles, one who played clarinet and the other violin. My father and histhree brothers were singers at [Catholic] Mass. So, when I was about three,my father gave me my first lessons on how to read music and how to playpiano. And I was continuously exposed to music, through radio and concerts.I saw Madame Butterfly at age four and Sonatas and Interludes forPrepared Piano at ten. I don’t think my father, a teacher, intended to makeme a musician, but it was a way to enrich my culture. But such an exposureto music could have produced either a musician or a music hater. I fit inthe first category. And I could easily truncate the “Why didn’t you look fora regular job?” discussions with my father. The milestone was buyingMountainscapes by Barre Phillips. In that period I was studying classicalmusic. I loved that record, but it seemed unreachable. A few months later Idiscovered that Barre was giving a workshop at CRAMS in Lecco. I rushed toattend to the workshop, and the main teaching I got from it is something Istill use: your skill on an instrument doesn’t matter, the important thingis your sincerity and staying true to yourself when you play. For a while Iplayed jazz in clubs in Genova, but during a concert I realised that was notmy cup of tea, so I dedicated myself only to improvisation. About four yearsago I turned to composition (which I had always studied) because it wasimpossible to be booked as an improviser. Now I’m on the road again, and I’mcomposing. Improvisation and composition feed one another.
Chain D.L.K.: Your last record is on Extreme, which is a label historically concerned withexperimental music. Do you expect that will change anything in terms ofvisibility and your future hopes?
Claudio Parodi: Well, I hope so. The reviews up to now have beenpositive….
Chain D.L.K.: I’ve recently seen a live show where you play some horn instrument as animprovisation, but on the other hand your new record is probably much closerto some kind of installation/concept work exploiting technology as aninstrument. Do you work in a different way according to the weapon you’reusing, or is there a common denominator joining all your different works(past and future)?
Claudio Parodi: The common denominator is myself, the difference is time. Alive performance of improvised music needs practice and reflection, but thetopical moment is when you are on stage. The practice and reflection you’vedone should help you to build a musical organism which is influenced by theplace, the musicians you are playing with and the audience, all in realtime. Composing too needs practice and reflection, but the topical moment iswhen you are executing the piece, or recording it. To have a score gives youinputs other than improvising. All the relationships are given by the score,including space (I always indicate the position of the instruments onstage). For Horizontal Mover I decided to use only space, which is evolvingas the piece is going, with no human intervention. For the next chapters Iwill play more.
Chain D.L.K.: It’s weird since Horizontal Mover in some way as a side effect sounds likedrone-music, not to say ambient–aren’t you afraid with that release peoplemay expect other releases like this? While for example I have seen yourimprovizational, free-jazz heterogeneous background bring you somewhereelse?
Claudio Parodi: Interesting question. When I received the influential CD byTiziano Milani, I immediately decided what instrumentation to use for eachtrack. So Horizontal Mover is on purpose a “tape music” CD, on which nohuman being is playing. But for the next six chapters the instrumentationwill be different. The common factor is me, as I will compose (and leavesome space to improvisation) for different instrumentations, and the resultswill sound different, even though, being a series, I will keep somethingfrom the previous and I will give something to the next chapter. For examplethe chapter two will be scored for two Turkish clarinetists and two tapes.For scoring the two clarinets I’m using chance operation from an interviewwith Alvin Lucier, and in the scoring there is an anticipation of anotherkind of chance operation that I will use for chapter three, homage to AlvinCurran. And I’m not afraid to propose that to Extreme, even though it wouldlead to the end of the dream. Talking about my clarinet playing that yousaw, it was the situation to lead me to play that way. The score wasincomprehensible, no electric musician paid attention to the sound level, soI was forced to play free jazz. Which is a music that I love, but during mysolo concert on the same instrument the audience must be very silent if theywant to hear what I’m doing.
Chain D.L.K.: Does that mean you’re mainly a soft player?
Claudio Parodi: It’s not a matter of volume, it’s a matter of seriousness. Istarted to feel uncomfortable in the situation from the beginning, when theyshowed the score as if it were a game. The game pieces by John Zorn, or I,Norton by Gino Robair are serious and difficult pieces, and they needrehearsing. Instead, in our case, it seemed that everybody was happy to havea way out of not making seriously improvised music, all together or dividedinto smaller groups. And the final straw was the organizer apologizing tothe audience for what happened. To go deeper: I accepted the situationbecause it will probably be the only one (apart from any possibility givento me) in which I’ll ever make improvised music in Genova again. And makingseriously improvised music does not at all exclude humour. Think of HanBennink, his performances can make you laugh to tears, but also to go deeperand ponder his unreachable technique. So, what we had was a typical Genovasituation: the musicians were not paid, but they sold drinks; everybodyseemed to be happy to have a holiday from their usual music, a music thatbecomes a job in which they can’t find fun. Now you know better why I’mpublished by an Australian label and why my next performances will be inLondon.
Chain D.L.K.: Ah, definitely uncompromising, Mr. Parodi…. One last question: whatwould you like to achieve with your music? And is there anything peopleshould look for in what you play/write/record?
Claudio Parodi: In a word: sincerity.
Visit Claudio Parodi on the web at:
[interviewed by Andrea Ferraris] [proofreading by Benjamin Pike]