lunedì 3 giugno 2013

Review - Alessandra Novaga’s Book of Heads by John Zorn at O’, Milano



Review - Alessandra Novaga’s Book of Heads by John Zorn at O’, Milano
By Mario Mariotti
info@mariomariotti.eu

On Monday March 27 John Zorn's “The Book of Heads” was performed for the first time in Italy in its entirety at Spazio O'Artoteca in Milan. The 1978 work consists of 35 studies for guitar – or, rather, for five different guitars (acoustic archtop, solid body, classical, dobro, and semi-hollow body) and several objects – and it's dedicated to one of Zorn's historical collaborators: guitarist Eugene Chadbourne. This is how Zorn talks about his music from that period, including BoH: In my early pieces – say the one I did in Richard Foreman’s loft, in January ’75 – I would be playing saxophone, for example, improvising a duet with someone who was peeling a cabbage, but the sound of peeling a cabbage was just as important and “orchestrated” for that sound, just as much as the sight of the performer standing up a ladder, peeling a cabbage. So that, in those early pieces, the sound resulting from the visual event was still formally present, in my mind. The artist responsible for the piece's performance in Milan is guitarist Alessandra Novaga who showed, along with great virtuosity, a wonderful theatrical and “scenic” flair. Zorn's brilliant 35 studies invite the audience to a journey through sound, gesture, and instrument, in which the guitar dematerializes and becomes “concept”, losing itself in the qualities and differences between the many kinds of instruments necessary for the performance of the piece. The cycle deploys to its maximum the expressive potential of the instruments, adding to the canonical plectrum and pizzicato techniques actions such as the rubbing of balloons on the strings, the use of bows, the insertion of objects between the strings (wooden sticks, nail files, strips of fabric, and clothespins), the use of various pedals, a talking doll, the rhythmic explosion of balloons in unison with guitar chords often at the end of a study, and the fascinating upward swing of the guitar's sound box during a resonating chord, producing something very close to a wha-wha sound effect in an entirely acoustic fashion. All these techniques were brilliantly mastered during the Milan performance, and they were highly appreciated by the audience – especially in their more theatrical aspects and where they willfully invited fun. Last but not least, one should not fail to mention the wonderful melodic fragments emerging at various points from the performance's kaleidoscopic texture of noises and sounds. A big cheer to Alessandra Novaga for bringing to Milan this work of maestro Zorn and for performing it with great pathos, and also a cheer to the staff of O'Artoteca for creating an environment conducive to the performance, in which the performer was in direct, close contact with the audience. We hope to hear before too long a new performance of the piece in Milan, and strongly encourage everybody to attend. 
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