Named after a small village in the Friulian Dolomites (but also present participle of the verb ‘celare’, that can be translated as ‘hiding’), “Celante” (2019, Setola di Maiale) is the new solo album by Patrizia Oliva, a multifaceted Italian artist who features a remarkable quantity of important artistic collaborations and appearances at festivals and venues. Hovering among a sort of interstitial non-space between reality and dream, the sound of “Celante” fits to the focus of Patrizia’s artistic research, based on the constant search of a renewed role of voice in contemporary singing. Following its listening, we decided to have a talk with Patrizia.
Chain D.L.K.: Hi Patrizia! How are you?
Patrizia Oliva: Hi Vito, I’m well and strong, thank you. But I’m worried about democracy, I’m worried about losing all the freedom we had, even was not exactly freedom. In this period of the “Plandemic”, I spent almost all the time to study and find pieces of information about the COVID-19 story and backstage of it. My researches grow very much and I found very interesting things about it and I’m constantly informed on what is going on right now. What it’s happened here in Italy it’s unbelievable, the government denies our constitution and jailed us at home for almost 2 months, while mainstream media, newspaper, and politicians put fear on people, hypnotizing them by false news. Unfortunately, the loss of constitutional rights is taking place all over the world, does freedom less important than health?
Chain D.L.K.: Considering your remarkable experience in sound and performative arts, I guess that a check of your biography on your website to the reader would be advisable. But let’s imagine you have to explain what you did, what you do, and who you are to a stranger in a hurry you meet on the street…
Patrizia Oliva: I grow up with the passion for music and art since I was a child, I always loved art and music, a good reason to be in this world. I’m a self-taught musician, with a good sense of rhythm, very important for me and I’ve started to play bass when I was 22 and in the beginning, it was like play for fun. I always found attraction for performing arts in the context of the present and to what happen in that time, using different materials and create a weird performance as I did with the band Allun, my very first experience in music. I like to create combinations and layers of soundscape which really helps me to discover small parts of myself. I’m an artist who just moves by art and music. In addition, I have a great and innate passion for plants and natural remedies from nature, I study constantly and do my research… many books!
Chain D.L.K.: What are the key experiences or the milestones of your artistic path that left an indelible mark on your personality?
Patrizia Oliva: I start to listen to hardcore and punk music at an early age of 17 and then discover jazz and electronic music. Many are the names of musicians that inspire me, I saw a lot of live concerts and I myself have organized music in clubs and house concerts. I use to live in California in the late ’90s and I was lucky to meet very interesting and bizarre musicians that, of course, have influenced my work. Caroliner Rainbow was a big meeting in my youngest part of life, creative musicians with a critical view of the present. At the same time, seen live concerts in squats and clubs were such an important input to me for my personality, in the contest of social life. Internet was the keyword to promote my work, I remember My Space, the first social media where I had the chance to meet several musician that impact on me. Physical places were so important and I think it’s what we don’t have any more now. It’s such a crazy shame, does power wants social distancing? This coming technological new era arrives so suddenly, where concerts will be watched on the Internet and not anymore in clubs. What will happen to live concerts? Where we will play next? It’s crazy and I cannot imagine planning a concert on live streaming. I already refused one invitation lately, I have not the mood with that for now.
Chain D.L.K.: I saw some videos grabbed during your more or less recent performances. I liked the usage and the manipulation of your voice in real-time. What are the more recurring thoughts coming up in your mind between the moment when you record your voice and the moment when you begin to manipulate or simply play it?
Patrizia Oliva: I’m an improviser and I’m very inside music when I play and perform, you know, it’s a strong combination between consciousness and unconsciousness, it’s my meditation. I cannot determine what I will create, I have to be very concentrated in the creations and feel very comfortable because if not, it can be a real disaster, but the work is also to find solutions, brick after brick. I remember when I’ve played in a festival in Venice, 10 years ago, and during my performance, somebody came to me with a piece of paper where it was written that I should stop play for a minute because a technician wanted to take a light from the stage for another next performance in other space of the festival. I was so mad, and also embarrassed because I was already inside the music, so I immediately start to create a wall of noise very constant and heavy, pumped up the volume and stop after 2 minutes and left the stage for no return any more. Of course, there are some crazy anecdotes in the life of every musician.
Chain D.L.K.: Does the surrounding environment have an influence on some performative aspects?
Patrizia Oliva: Yes it’s very important for the result of the performance, everything works on many levels to create the music. Of course, first your training… the light, the place, the people, the food, the health and not least the organizer himself, which has the responsability for the result of the event. Theatre or cinema are always good place for the dimension of the music, forest or natural places are very special to me. I enjoy very much also house concerts.
Chain D.L.K.: Under ‘projects’ in your website, there are two items in the list, Camusi and Tai No-Orchestra. Can you introduce them to our readers?
Patrizia Oliva: Oh sorry! That menu is under construction… I have had and I have many projects through the years, in addition to Camusi and Tai No-Orchestra there are Gravida, 4!, Carver, Gamra, Toba, Setoladimaiale Unit, Belledonne and some other collaborations like the Being Together Ensemble in Vietnam. Many of these projects involve Stefano Giust, my partner in life, and these groups (duo, trio, etc.) are focused on free improvisation. Tai No Orchestra was an incredible experience that I had some years ago in Milano, a good chance to meet with many great improvisers from Italy, led by Roberto Masotti, the great photographer, and visual performer. Camusi is still a duo with drummer Stefano Giust and it is the longest-running project I have, active from 2007. Stefano is an amazing musician very talented and always focused on free improvisation and contemporary music, since 1993 his label Setola di Maiale (www.setoladimaiale.net) is a great example of what is going on about improvised music from all over the world today.
Chain D.L.K.: How do these collaborative projects relate to your solo projects?
Patrizia Oliva: A couple of years ago I start to be involved with a new project called Setoladimaiale Unit with Evan Parker, we play together three concerts and the ensemble is very hot with such great musicians as Evan Parker on soprano and tenor saxophones, Marco Colonna on Bb, C, alto and bass clarinets, Martin Mayes on horn and alphorn, Alberto Novello on analog electronics, Giorgio Pacorig on piano, Michele Anelli on double bass, Stefano Giust on drums and cymbals, the American composer Philip Corner on gongs intro and his wife Phoebe Neville also on gongs intro and me on voice, electronics. It this experience I saw, again, how my work is functioning on solo and ensemble dimensions, where my way to play is very different. On my solo I’m focused with the constructions of sounds, melodies, rhythms, and songs, adding the Chinese Bawu flute and little instruments, or field recordings; on ensemble, I have to take care about silence and space, to reduce the work to create and think more to the whole ensemble, where every one has his own sounds and space. For me it’s important to listen very well all I can.
Chain D.L.K.: Let’s focus more on your last album ‘Celante’. Some listeners who understand Italian can surmise it’s the past participle of the verb ‘celare’ meaning ‘to hide’, but it refers to something else, doesn’t it?
Patrizia Oliva: In 2019 I decided to finish some compositions for relise a new album. I’m been start to collect small fragments of loops of voices just after my summer trip to Chicago in 2018. Then in the fall I found a place in the mountain where I felt could be the perfect place to be alone and concentrate myself for the creation of Celante. I spent 3 months over there, it was such an important experience for my personal grow. The small village is called Celante, it is on the Dolomite Mountain in Friuli, North-East Italy. Celante is absorbed in the green and the house where I stay was exposed between the East to the West, so I could see the sunrise and the sunset every day.
Chain D.L.K.: The charming opening track, Larila, is also the score of a same-named short film by independent Chicago-based film-maker Lori Felker. Any word about it?
Patrizia Oliva: In 2018 I was invited to compose the music for a short film, Memoria Data, to be presented and played live both in Bergamo and then in Chicago at Millenium Park. It was a great chance for me to come back to America, where I’m been already play in Chicago in 2006 in a long tour of 40 concert in 45 days. It happened that Cinescatti and Lab80 from Bergamo, asked me to be part of the Media Mixer in Chicago and so to collaborate with Lori Felker, an amazing filmmaker and visual artist from Chicago. We never had worked together before and it was fantastic, I play in downtown at the Millenium Park, a huge stage that is one of the two places in the world with this massive PA system, very advanced. So, after a year, I asked to Lori if she was interested to make the video for Larila. She did an amazing work, she exactly expressed the lyrics of my song, which actually can also fit for this months of restrictions, just see the images she used for the video (it’s free on YouTube).
Chain D.L.K.: All tracks in Celante actually sound like the soundtracks for weird dreams/nightmares. How did they match your ones? Is there any track composed just after a dream your mind generated?
Patrizia Oliva: I am a dreamlike person, so my dreams are part of my life. I write it for them for a long time, but this doesn’t have always meanings, dreams come easily after a stressful moment for example, those dreams I’m not interpreting, but they can come suddenly with a symbolic and metaphoric picture, those dreams can be interesting. For example, the text of Roare Myth is a fact happen to me one night when I was walking in the wood and I took the risk of life at that moment. Larila borns in theatre for a dance company, but at the beginning, it was rawer and I changed later a bit the music and I add lyrics, other tracks are the expression of my believes and research, my sensitive way to create the unknown from something that I don’t know where it comes from, maybe from dreams, can be, but it can be far from them and just from my fantasy, as I always trust.
Chain D.L.K.: On tracks like “Mezza Stanza”, it seems you turned your voice into a sound generator more than a “word caster”. Is it my impression right?
Patrizia Oliva: Mezza Stanza starts with a four-track loops improvisations, that I did at Angelica in Bologna and it’s simply my voice manipulated with the background sounds from the birds of the PA system of the theatre that I’ve recorded during the soundcheck. In this track I wanted to make a long time process with small changes. But it’s a live improvisation. On studio I left the piece as the original one I described here. Of course the result is heard as a personal trip into our own sensation, so for someone it reminds of African tribal songs and so on. I really like every interpretation and imagination that a piece of music can generate to the listener.
Chain D.L.K.: Voice seems to lead most of the tracks, but there are also moments such as “Be At East” when this role seems to be inverted… is it made on purpose or would you say it’s just part of the “heuristics” of composition process, to call it so?
Patrizia Oliva: To be honest, I haven’t a rule. I’m a singer first, that uses electronics making music, so I decide at the moment what I need to do if I improvise, and when I compose my process is different because the two acts are very different. What I mean is that during my compositional work I can more easily be focused on structures more edited than during my improvisation work because there is all the time to change and add everything you feel during the construction of the music: this happened in Be At East. So, my voice is not necessarily always the main instrument. I must also say that I don’t use the computer in the creative process, that is an instrument that would greatly facilitate the manipulation of every musical detail but that doesn’t find my interest at all.
Chain D.L.K.: At the end of the album, you also inserted a track that can be considered a tribute to Pasolini. Any word about that?
Patrizia Oliva: Oh yes, Pasolini! Originally, Cosa Sono Le Nuvole was a famous song from Domenico Modugno, one of the best male voice in Italy for me, at that time, with the words of Pier Paolo Pasolini. Some years ago I was invited to create music for a theatre piece in La Spezia and I did a version completely different from the beautiful song of Modugno. But than I felt the need to change the music again, and I really don’t know why (magic?) and that’s the version you can hear in Celante. I love the text so much, what Pasolini was telling us, with those words… I only wonder if Pasolini was still alive what would he say about this period? But he talked about it: he warned us about the dangers of capitalism…
I just want to add that I feel discomfort in this time period, making music is not so easy for me now, I prefer silence at the moment. Anyway, I will publish a new album of field recordings in this year, with sounds I’ve started to collect from 2007 to now.
For music research, the future will certainly not be easy, this is a very difficult moment. Day after day we will see what will happen, we must all keep ourselves informed from independent sources, we must be united, and we must take care of the future and do that, we must also strengthen our immune system. We have to realize that plutocracy wants to take beauty away and change the course of human nature. We must be strong!
Visit Patrizia Oliva web space here: www.patriziaoliva.wordpress.com