A recent visit to the Nivola Museum in Orani which houses the temporary exhibition Il Libro degli Altri by the Spanish illustrator Isidro Ferrer made me reflect on the stages of the creative process, especially with regard to fixing music and sounds on a support (the temporary exhibition is accompanied by music by Paolo Angeli, created specifically for the exhibition).
Inspiration and Sound Notation
I recently started a series of daily improvisations with no end, other than starting from a sound, a fragment, to develop a very brief idea, which could perhaps become the seed of something more developed, and why not of a real composition.
Artists’ notebooks come to mind, or scattered sheets of paper, handkerchiefs from bars, matchboxes, in short, all those supports on which to fix a thought, an idea. I’m fixing mine on small videos, which I’m sharing on my social channels, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, can you believe I even gave in to TikTok!
Actually, we musicians too have the way of fixing ideas on paper, especially if there is a very close relationship with traditional musical writing, where each symbol corresponds not to a simple sound but to an idea of sound and musical expression, and where each simple rhythm actually corresponds to a rhythmic feeling, a motion, a real movement of the body.
During the 377 project, a 14-month bicycle journey through all 377 municipalities of Sardinia, I “invented” music every day, starting from simple improvisations on my bass ukulele, which most of the time I wrote down in my travel notebooks , strictly Moleskine, the staffed version for musicians/travellers!
Musical Material Processing
What final form do these musical notes take? In the case of visual artists the drawings, often only sketched in pencil, end up becoming real works, illustrations, paintings, sculptures. For us musicians, musical ideas can remain improvisations, flows of ideas that start from the initial idea to be developed in a longer form without a real structure, or they can be elaborated in the form of compositions, structured, arranged, and fixed on sheet music, both as traditional music notation and/or graphic score.
In all cases, there are two final means we use to convey our musical creation to others: recordings and live performances. For example, in the case of the fragments of the 377 project, after being reworked and arranged with other musicians (Peter Waters on piano, Roberto Migoni on drums, Francesco Morittu on guitar, plus various guests), a part of them ended up on the double CD 377: released in April 2022.
Physical and Digital Support: CD and Streaming
Recording an album is a long, tiring and above all expensive process. In many cases sales will never offset the costs, especially in times when most people no longer have an adequate sound system in which to listen to music on a physical support, if not on their mobile phone in the form of digital streaming, a way which provides an income to the artist only in cases of dizzying listening numbers.
And yet, although I also have adapted to the digital format being present on the main streaming platforms such as Spotify, we musicians continue to produce music in physical format, just as visual artists produce works on paper, canvas or other formats. The relationship with the physical object, as well as with the sensorial use of the work, remains essential for those who do not accept that their work remains exclusively a binary sequence of zeros and ones scattered in the ether of the www.
The Live Performance
But our luck, our strongest and most profitable weapon, unlike other artistic expressions, is to be able to offer our creation in the form of a live performance. This is also what happened with the music of the 377 project, presented live in various contexts as a multimedia show, 377: in transit, accompanied by images and readings.
This is the most engaging way for a listener to know a music work, because in addition to the sounds, the audience can literally see the gestures that produce those sounds, the body expression of the individual musicians and the collective breath of the group. In many cases other visual elements also take over, plays of light, projections and more, which make the performance a unique sensory and emotional experience.