From Xenakis to Reich: (almost) all rejected. Here’s the reports of an obtuse Committee




by Giovanni Albini

It’s test-time in conservatories all over the world. I figure out reports drawn up by an obtuse Committee, managing to judge extraordinary composers.

John Cage – The student has some blank pages, or pages covered with incomprehensible symbols. Asked for an explanation he responds either incoherently or with a tireless silence. Furthermore, he seems almost amused by the reactions of his teachers. Suddenly, perhaps in a persistent vegetative state, he begins to put screws and small metal objects into the piano of the classroom. He is immediately immobilized by some teachers and a rushed-over operator. The emergency dept is called. The test is cancelled.

Maurice Ravel – The proposed score has two self-pleasing themes, built up on a typical Spanish dance. The sense of form is virtually non-existent: the stubborn and confusing repetition of those issues is trivial. Any attempt to any development of the thematic material is vacant. It could be argued that at least the orchestration has been taken care of, if it were not for a part of the snare, which repeats for almost two hundred times (!) the same two lines. The student himself also devalued the delivered composition. Rejected.

Krzysztof Penderecki – The student suffers from obvious gaps in the basic techniques of musical notation, offset by awkwardly childish and incomprehensible timekeeping directions and obscure stains on staves. The viewed page-structure certainly denotes a taste for geometry and graphics that pushes the committee to suggest him studies of visual arts. The orchestra, in addition to that, refuses to perform the score. The exam is null. The student is expelled.

Steve Reich – The test taker performs with a companion, the duo begins to applaud one another with sly in twelve eighths tempo. The commission would be inclined to reward the boldness and simplicity of the aesthetic gesture, except that after a few seconds the two are no more at the same time, and only after ten attempts they finally succeed in clapping with a synchronous mode. Rejected. An educational debt in basic Musical skills is also suggested.

Claude Debussy – A symphonic poem inspired by vernacular onanism. The organic choice is without a doubt gaunt, the key signature is mysterious: the sense of harmony and of tonal features is poor, or even null. The music, which should represent a manly Roman mythological figure, has on the other hand a rather feminine soul, of an inconclusive sweetness. Rejected.

Karlheinz Stockhausen – The student has two impracticable scores. The first is for three orchestras, but it is evident that there are three different works hastily merged into a single score to impress the committee with a monumental organic. The second, probably one of his funny jokes, requires helicopters to be performed. Inadmissible test, the student is sent to the next call.

Luciano Berio The student claims that his composition has to be performed by a trombonist who, as he says, commissioned it to him: a clumsy charlatan who does everything except playing his instrument. During the test the improvised instrumentalist turns to the commission asking himself why all that sad charade. Presumably it is a vagabond who has agreed to grovel for a small remuneration. The farce is interrupted, the student is rejected with reprimand.

Mauricio Kagel – Evidently Berio’s fellow, he collects three mimes with a sad face and a funeral dress, hoping that their talent as musical actors would match the musical deficiencies of a skeletal score. As expected, the actors commit themselves by parodying the gestures of three musicians, without making a single sound. The exam is null. The student is expelled.

Iannis Xenakis – Yet another error in the Secretary’s office. The student is convinced of having an oral exam of Probability and Statistics. Despite having cleared out the misunderstanding, he insists on showing cryptic stochastic processes with abstruse musical examples. Maybe he has urgency to conclude the academic year and, realizing he hasn’t had time enough to show up at the next appeal in the proper discipline, he tries in every way to bring home a note in the booklet. Passed. He may have studied another subject, but at least he had something meaningful to say.

© Riproduzione riservata – Translation by Max Carinelli


L'autore: Giovanni Albini

(Pavia, 1982). Compositore, è professore di Teoria, Ritmica e Percezione Musicale presso il Conservatorio di Trento, nonché professore a contratto di Informatica Musicale, Didattica dell'Improvvisazione e Tecniche di Arrangiamento e Trascrizione presso l'Istituto Superiore di Studi Musicali di Pavia e docente di Armonia nella Scuola Civica di Musica dello stesso istituto». È membro per la classe di Scienze fisiche, matematiche e naturali dell'Istituto di Studi Superiori dell'Insubria "Gerolamo Cardano". Si dedica inoltre alle colonne sonore: ha composto musica e lavorato al sound design di decine tra istallazioni artistiche, mostre, trailer, video commerciali e videogiochi. Si interessa principalmente del legame tra composizione e matematica, di colonne sonore interattive, dello sviluppo di software per la didattica musicale e di intelligenze artificiali musicali. Sue composizioni e trascrizioni sono state eseguite nei cinque continenti da interpreti tra i quali: l'Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale Lituana (diretta da Robertas Servenikas), l'Orchestra Tito Schipa di Lecce (diretta da Salvatore Accardo e da Massimo Quarta), l'Orchestra Verdi di Milano (diretta da Matthieu Mantanus), l'Orquestra Clasica do Centro di Coimbra, il quartetto d'archi della BBC SSO e l'Algoritmo Ensemble (diretto da Marco Angius). L'etichetta discografica olandese Brilliant Classics ha pubblicato e distribuito due cd monografici contenenti suoi lavori "Giovanni Albini: Musica Ciclica" (2013) e "Giovanni Albini: Musica Sacra" (2014). Entrambi raccolgono lavori fondati sui suoi metodi compositivi di ispirazione matematica. A riguardo ha pubblicato e tenuto conferenze in varie istituzioni, tra le quali la Biennale di Venezia e l'università di Yale. Ha inoltre scritto per le pagine del mensile de Il Sole 24 Ore ed è il direttore artistico del centro internazionale di musica contemporanea highSCORE Music Center.

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