Massimiliano Tarantino invited me to the Fondazione Giangiacomo Feltrinelli’s archive, a radical culture Wunderkammer in Milan.
Knowing my passion for Utopia, he mentioned they had a copy of Thomas More’s book - the first edition.
So there I was, staring at this astonishing relic from 1516.
He asked me if I would be interested in writing some music inspired by the book, or by some other hidden gem from the archive.
Then I got lost in the archive's 12 kilometers of books and documents. When I came across L’Encyclopédie by Diderot & D’Alembert, I picked up a random volume from the shelf and I was amazed to discover a music chapter there.
The book includes a good number of scores. These are not music exercises or compositions; they are examples of how to work with different musical elements.
Dozens of musical examples teach you how to write a counterpoint or a cadence, how to work with harmony, and many other musical issues.
In other words, it’s a sampler from three centuries ago that no-one ever played.
After its glorious days during the Age of Enlightenment it must have drifted into a darkness of forgotten thoughts.
Nowadays, classically-trained musicians are not familiar with it.
At first, it was the imperative character of those scores that inspired me to play them as a reference - to help imagine, and write, new music.
It was like playing with a ghost, with someone who was a member of a community bound here by its rules - tiny and simple examples of musical gestures devoted to a world that doesn’t exist anymore.
I wasn’t interested in renewing old music; that stands on its own. But I had found an old map, and I decided to use it for an adventurous walk to places I had never been.
This led me to record the scores and collect them all, forming an audible archive of lost memories - and then to write music inspired by those rules. Without any nostalgia.
Map and sampler are synonyms here; they became provocative partners in discovering other trajectories, and the resonances occurring between them, because those memories continue to speak.
I like working with strict rules and when I get to a specific point I get rid of them as an attempt to find myself somewhere else, hopefully a different me.
In 1751, when it first came out, L’Encyclopédie became the Enlightenment’s Manifesto. It had to fight against the church and its censorship but it had an enormous impact and even led, in a way, to the French Revolution.
My connection with this book isn’t solely an artistic one. There’s also a political side: after nearly three centuries it’s still here. I wonder if we’ll be still around after so long, because I see the darkness of the obscurantist age in which we’re living: no consciousness of the human impact on the earth, women still badly discriminated against, refugees being persecuted…
I think we need way more light now, and I wish we could borrow the spirit that defined the Enlightenment.
It would be a political act, and it could be revolutionary.
Produced by Fondazione Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, Milano.
Music written, recorded, mixed and produced by Teho Teardo at The Basement, Roma, April 2018 - October 2019
Other recordings took place at Villa Manin, Passariano on December 2018.
Harpsichord recorded in Napoli at Fondazione Pietà de Turchini.
Teho Teardo - baritone guitar, electric guitar, lap steel, piano, rhodes piano, bass, synths, electronics, celesta, harpsichord, bells, percussions, objects.
Erik Friedlander, Laura Bisceglia, Giovanna Famulari, Antonino Puliafito - cello
Lucia Cremonesi, Ambra Chiara Michelangeli - viola
Vanessa Cremaschi, Elena De Stabile, Lucy Passante Spaccapietra, Diana Perez Tedesco - violin
Giorgia Poli, Igor Legari - double bass
Gabriele Coen - bass clarinet
Massimo de Mattia - flutes
Susanna Buffa - voice
Iris Teardo - celesta
Orchestra at Villa Manin
Chiara Antonutti, Anna Apollonio, Caterina Picotti, Lucia Premerl, Marco Toso - violin
Margherita Cossio, Giovanni Boscarato, Rosanna Romagnoli - viola
Mara Grion, Luca Cividino - cello
Donata Paduano, Paolo Mazzoleni, Luca Zuliani - double bass
Tech assistance - Roberto Iandolo
Mastering - Michael Schwabe at Monoposto, Dusseldorf
Photos - Teho Teardo, Roberto Losurdo
Layout Mirco Muner
Thanks to Massimiliano Tarantino, Carlo Feltrinelli and the amazing stuff at Fondazione Giangiacomo Feltrinelli: Francesca Audisio, Spartaco Puttini, Vittore Armanni, Marianna Pelucchi, Anna Wizemann, Manuela Barone, Giovanni Sanicola.
Thanks to CSS, Teatro di innovazione del Friuli Venezia Giulia for inviting me at Dialoghi - Residenze delle arti performative a Villa Manin 2018-2020, Alberto Bevilacqua, Rita Maffei, Fabrizia Maggi, Luisa Schiratti, Elisa Dall’Arche, Anna Rita Deperini.
Thank you Marco Stangherlin at Wakeupandream, Francesco Fazzi, Andrea Leonardi, Giovanni Arcadu, Daniele Della Vedova, Elia Falaschi, Simone Palma, Charles Fréger, Nicola Vannini, Simone Rossi at Audioglobe, Federica Castaldo, Adelaide Mascolo, Luca Ravagni, Enda Walsh, Anne Clarke, Paul Fahy, Jim Coleman, Stuart Staples, Blixa Bargeld, Elisabetta Pacini at Specula, Giacomo & Iris Teardo.
Press Guido Gaito, Italy, Zoe Miller, UK.