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Interview with Osvaldo Coluccino

Like your previous CD Atto, Oltreorme is entirely for acoustic objects. However, it feels very different. How would you describe the differences between the two?

I can start by saying that both Atto and Oltreorme belong to the same branch of my work (I identify only two branches in my musical history: 1) writing for classical musical instruments, 2) electroacoustic music and music for acoustic objects). But as with all my recording projects, both have their own individual path. Each of my albums explores a specific research path, with its own ‘themes’, colours, atmosphere, climate, timbre, poetry, philosophy, with its breath, its light... though always, of course, within a certain stylistic ambit.

Following on from this, I can say something about what I think is particular to Oltreorme, and highlight two peculiarities, ‘the almost non-listenability’ and ‘the dissipation’.

Speaking about the first peculiarity, which distinguishes Oltreorme from Atto: the effort of a minimum, transparent and hypersensitive emission of sound (or of the ‘breath of the objects’), as well as the effort of perception, not only acoustic perception, are here sometimes taken to the limit of what is humanly possible, with results that seem to me of great delicacy.

This suggests that a minimum of performative gestures and a minimum amount of sound was used. And this is true, but the important thing is not to confuse this creative method with a minimalist attitude. I think we could speak more appropriately, and at most, of a ‘distilled music’, due to the concentration and calmness, the fragile tension of each sign or cluster of sounds, but all within the controlled richness that is typical of my artistic creation beyond this album.

This timeless suspension, combined with the use of so much constructive silence, refers to an objective inwardness in which everything takes place and must have its own space, then reflects back on the outside with an intensity and naturalness.

Unlike Atto, Oltreorme is a work which, as I wrote in the short sleevenote to the disc, requires an absolutley specific situation for listening, and perhaps also a slow maturation of one’s mode of listening.

As concerns the other distinctive peculiarity of Oltreorme, the ‘dissipation’… Well, give yourself over to it with a special dedication, lose yourself in the sounds, and best wishes...

You are clear that Oltreorme isn’t to be seen as a work of ‘minimalism’, but I wondered whether through it you are engaging with the notion of ‘silence’ in a way that is different from what you have done previously, at least in the ‘electroacoustic & acoustic objects’ branch of your musical history.

I didn’t base the work on any concept, but I have no doubt that Oltreorme is the apex in terms of my research about silence. It was an exclusive immersion for months, trying to sink into a silent ‘antrum’ and to block out other ‘loudspeakers’. This event has no relation to any experience of conceptual art, where the silence would be announced and nothing more; with the creation of Oltreorme, initially the silence was experienced in the first-person and then is offered in substance.

My work on the unconscious is personal and innate, while my in-depth studies several years ago on psychoanalysis and twentieth century philosophy – Lacan, Derrida, Deleuze, Matte Blanco etc. – have reinforced my inclination to travel with the unconscious. Entering the fascinating dark spaces of the unconscious also leads to silence.

As for the aesthetic and emotional outcomes, I hope that every listener freely associates them according to their personal preferences and individual sensibility, associating these silences – even because of arbitrary or improbable combinations – with silences in a painting they like, or even with the silences in Luigi Nono’s Fragmente-Stille, or with those in just a few of Cage’s pieces, or with artistic results derived from well-known notions of silence from Eastern philosophies (I often say about self-loss and dissipation, renunciation of the will, that I do not believe in the centrality of human beings; I say in all sincerity that I do not feel myself superior to an ox for slaughter, or to an ant...), or, better still, without attaching Oltreorme to anything more than itself.

Going back to the division you make in your musical history, I wonder why you keep the branch of works for traditional classical instruments so separate from the branch of your work that includes your pieces for acoustic objects? I personally enjoy a lot of pieces where everyday, ‘non-musical’ sounds are combined with traditional instruments. Is this a direction that you might move in, or are the two areas necessarily separate for you?

Certainly it’s a direction in which I could go. And in a way I’ve already been there, even if in a different way, i.e. I composed pieces in which noise, generically understood, was combined with classical musical instruments in their natural state (unprocessed). On previous occasions it was electroacoustic, so a mixture of sound from acoustic instruments, from acoustic objects and electronic post-processing. For example Absum IV and V from 1999. In the first case it was acoustic objects and electronic processing, while in Absum V I played the violin and juxtaposed electronic processing. Also Dimensioni and Differenza, still from 1999 but from another collection, where, in the first case, a ‘voce bianca’, from a female child, was singing, while in the second piece I played the piano and juxtaposed electronic distortions from recordings of the same. Something like this also occurred in Nell’attimo in the same collection but with percussions. And finally there is Etra, from 2008, with the violin again, and Stigma with the trombone as well...

The main reason why I keep the two branches separate is that in this branch I'm alone, composer-performer, working without any mediation by other interpreters. This constitutes a different dimension. Neither better nor worse.

I can add that I am a rather monothematic kind of man, that is, I like the purity of collections divided into sets according to instrumentation, e.g. music for vocal ensemble or string quartet or piano trio only or solo piano or acoustic objects only or electroacoustic music only, and so on.

However, your question is timely: it was already my intention to prepare a new work post Oltreorme over the next two years, which would consist of acoustic instruments as well, though still with no electronic processing.

Lastly, could you explain the title ‘Oltreorme’?

As I wrote in the sleevenote, ‘oltreorme’ is a word that doesn’t exist in Italian. It’s formed of two words which I have arbitrarily stuck together: ‘oltre’ + ‘orme‘ (‘beyond’ + ‘footprints’).

Although I said that I don’t want my music to be dependent on concepts, I'd like to finish the interview by talking about how poetic feelings and metaphors can work independently but in a complementary way.

Quite often the titles of my creations are twofold (sometimes there is polysemy, sometimes anagram, semantic resonance etc.). ‘Beyond footprints’ might allude to at least two situations:

1) being located after the event, having to do with that which follows a passage (remembrance, regret, holograms from lost flowers, halos beyond the fossils...), so this has to do with a temporal deferral,

2) being located now, simultaneously, in parallel, beyond the surface event.

But... back to the music, nothing is onomatopoeic or mimetic. The music is a new world.

There is another interview with Osvaldo Coluccino here, conducted on the release of his other CD on Another Timbre, Atto.

at61  Osvaldo Coluccino - Oltreorme

Music for acoustic objects, composed, performed, recorded and mixed by Osvaldo Coluccino

North-west Italy, August to December 2012

4 tracks, total time 53:10

Youtube extract

Photos by Osvaldo Coluccino

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Osvaldo Coluccino's debut album on Another Timbre, Atto, was one of 2012's more pleasant surprises. Despite Coluccino's history of composing for conventional instruments — his release immediately preceding Atto was String Quartets (NEOS, 2012) — for the composition featured on Atto he opted to only employ (unspecified) acoustic objects which he struck, rubbed or blew into. […] Despite his use of non-instrumental sounds here [in Oltreorme], Coluccino demonstrates a composer's ear for the ingredients that combine to make dramatic listening – contrasts of volume, texture and duration, periods of stability or repetition are offset by occasional surprise elements thrown in (but no great shocks). Altogether, Oltreorme is as successful as Atto and the two together form a well-matched pair. There can be no higher recommendation than that.

John Eyles  All About Jazz

And then you get recordings like this one which seem so effortlessly beautiful… Solo, all “acoustic objects”, played in a loosely percussive manner, softly. Softer still if you follow Coluccino's suggestion and turn the volume low. […] Sounds enter into the room, disappear; depending on your listening acuity, you may forget the disc is on for a minute or two. When they surface, I bet they sound as natural as whatever else is going on wherever you are. Nothing forced, nothing overly stressed, a fine willingness to withhold; reticent but not shy. […] One of those recordings where it's tough to say much, worthless to describe but extremely enjoyable to experience. […]

Brian Olewnick  Just Outside

[…] les sons ont tendance à être imperceptibles, ils passent comme des ombres fugitives qu’on peine souvent à percevoir. L’univers d’Oltreorme est instable, fantomatique et au-delà du réel. […] Une musique très ténue […] Tout est affaire d’écoute, d’attention et de perception. Une expérience vraiment originale basée sur des textures uniques. […] plus que difficile, Oltreorme est déroutant. A cause notamment de cette distinction qui s’efface entre l’univers musical abstrait et l’univers environnant concret. En plus de donner une vie musicale à des objets non-musicaux, Coluccino efface – de manière musicale – la distinction entre la projection sonore et son environnement concret […]

Julien Héraud  Improv-Sphere

[…] Coluccino seems interested to create a method for the loss of self-perception within a quiescent milieu of soft noises and brushed silences, as if willing to reaffirm the rigor of isolation as the basis for the development of our innermost capabilities in opposition to ego. […] Coluccino shows the weight of his conception – already surfacing in the previous Atto on this same label – through a clear, if wordless explanation that defies critical categorization. We ourselves are the sounds that we hear in a complex give-and-take mechanism of acceptance and/or denial; the reaction to this simple fact will determine our social (or less) attitude. […] genuine deep listening is not possible if solitude is diluted.

Massimo Ricci  Touching Extremes

[…] La musica di Atto è infatti molto fluida, i brani hanno in genere una forma parabolare e sono piuttosto compatti per densità e volumi.
I brani di Oltreorme appaiono invece molto più rarefatti e ingegnati su volumi tenui […]
Quello che va perso in fluidità viene però acquisito in dinamismo, con conseguente capacità di sorprendere l’ascoltatore, dal momento che sia i silenzi sia i volumi appena percettibili ben si adattano ai colpi di scena.
[…] Le orme sembrano rappresentare il qui e il presente mentre l’oltre può essere un al di là dello spazio e dell’istante. Suoni attutiti dalla distanza e/o dal tempo, quindi, suoni da vivere come lacrime di memoria.

Etero Genio Sands-zine

If someone ask this question to me about who I think is one of today’s most exciting and versatile contemporary composers, the Italian Osvaldo Coluccino would have the title as soon as possible. At the same time genius with boundless imagination and meticulous craftsman. […] Oltreorme, composed in 2012, moves along Atto guidelines […] The next step is that Oltreorme demands that what was previously touched or rubbed, now it's just caressed; only now its breath that blew in it is included. It is soft and subtle music. It is also more delicate and quiet. […] he gives us a Zen riddle, which is not the solution to the issue but the fact of thinking that those are all the other external factors that we hear when we listen to a piece by a composer. […] it is ultra-soft music, exciting, a challenging work. Absolute mastery.

Dusted Hoffman

[…] Silence is clearly a large part of Oltreorme […] but it’s punctuated most elegantly by sounds from acoustic objects, with no conventional musical instruments or processing involved. The title is an invented portmanteau of two Italian words which translates as ‘beyond footprints’ or ‘beyond traces’, reflecting Coluccino’s aim of capturing what he describes in an interview on Another Timbre’s website as “the breath of objects”: delicate, shortlived, mostly gestural sounds, arranged in clusters between the silences, with objects overlapping to highlight their sonic similarities and contrasts. […]

Abi Bliss The Wire

[…] Osvaldo Coluccino ne joue d’objets comme personne. D’ailleurs, il ne joue pas. Non, il examine, secoue, voit ce que ça donne, cherche, trouve ou ne trouve pas, creuse ou abandonne… J’aurais aimé dire aussi que nous ne devons pas chercher quel est l’objet, qu'il faut laisser faire l’imagination qui trotte et qui galope, le disque qui invite à l’imagination… Mais Atto n’est pas Oltreorme, dont le titre est un néologisme qui nous lance sur la piste d’ « outre-empreintes ». Plus que sur son prédécesseur, les objets questionnent le silence. Plus que sur son prédécesseur, Coluccino réinvente la musique concrète en la rendant élusive. Même dans le concret, il est important de se distinguer. Et Osvaldo Coluccino a su le faire.

Pierre Cécile Le Son du Grisli

Osvaldo Coluccino è uno degli “sperimentatori sui margini del silenzio” più interessanti del panorama italiano e anche del catalogo Another Timbre. Se Reynell ha puntato su di lui c'è da credergli e da rimanerne incuriositi! Ha un’idea ed estetica del silenzio, a cui chiaramente ha dato il suo significato. Viaggia sul liminare, da tempo si incrina su composizioni sempre più materiche con oggetti acustici che diventano musica, spostando la linea di confine della sua ricerca un po' più in là, un po' più oltre. Oltreorme. Non è a caso il titolo. Dopo la dichiarazione d'intenti contenuta in Atto. Oltreorme è quasi impossibile da afferrare. Bisognerebbe vederlo realizzare, svilupparsi, concretizzarsi. E invece Coluccino lo lascia alla nostra immaginazione. All'abisso creato tra la distanza dei suoni informali e concreti che giungono all'orecchio e gli oggetti e le mani che li hanno creati. […].

Francesca Odilia Bellino  All About Jazz – Italy