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Thursday, November 17, 2022

Marco Colonna, Francesco Cigana – Shells (NES, 2022)

By Guido Montegrandi

New Ethic Society (NES) is a project based in Rome whose aim is to produce, stage, work and reflect on improvised music and art. This initiative, which sees Marco Colonna among its founders, has already produced different and interesting outputs and Shells is one of them. What we have is a clarinet (Colonna) and percussion (Francesco Cigana) duo that builds up a set and makes a statement on improvised music that establishes and testifies to a methodical approach to musical praxis. As Colonna says in the notes: “every human action needs radicality, in the sense of a deep relation to its cultural foundation, to produce life-blood for new developments that can help imagine new Worlds, new solutions” (Note that in Italian the meaning of the word “radicality” it is connected to that of “root” as well as to “radical”).

This works is coupled with a youtube video in which the two musician play some of their music and discuss their point of view about improvising, making music in the digital age, and the role of music in our life. Though you can listen to their music and enjoy it without watching the video, the topics presented are nevertheless really interesting both for musicians and listeners (alas it is in Italian but with English subtitles…). Just a quote from their talks: “improvised music is not entertaining, it takes you to the edge of the abyss...”

The various pieces of Shells develop into an organic sequence with the percussions creating a sense of space, architectural lines inhabited by music. The opening track, 'Popsicle Slavina,' is a good example of their method: the sound of clarinet floats on noises and clashes that build the foundation of the piece. Sounds as materials, generative organisms of improvisation. As the two musicians say in the video, time is not just a series of pulses but a breath in which music is immersed.

The second piece, 'Mother,' presents sparse percussion and clarinet sounds from silence to screaming and back to silence again, an attempt to create a melody that always dissolves into a cry or a whisper. Quoting Colonna, "when we play we’re not saying something, we are something… and because of the fact that composition and performance happen at the same moment, individual emotions in the act of playing are part of the composition itself"

All of the pieces develop in a balance between silence and sound, density and rarefaction.

Sometimes the clarinet creates melodies that bring to a dialogue with the percussions ('Psalm', 'Form'), sometimes the notes of the clarinet create a pattern for the percussions to build a discourse ('Night Shift'), sometimes clarinet and percussion mingle together ('Trojica Gost', 'Uproar'). Every time the effort is on building a method to produce improvised composition with a sense and a structure.

In conclusion the theoretical assumptions of the two musicians find a way into our ears, brain and heart making this work really interesting both for the value of its musical results and for its attempt to reflect on the practice of improvised music in its different aspects.

Available on Bandcamp.