Thursday, September 20, 2018

Luca Ciarla Brings his Looping Back to IIC

Cover of Luca Ciarla’s Fiddler in the Loop CD (from

My first encounter with violinist Luca Ciarla and his approach to looping technology took place when he visited the Italian Cultural Institute (Istituto Italiano de Cultura, IIC) in September of 2009, the year in which I first began writing for He was touring the United States to promote his CD Fiddler in the Loop; and my first observation about his performance was that “his recordings were not exclusively products of studio ingenuity.” He was very much an in-the-moment performer, skilled at capturing sampled sounds in real time but just as skilled in listening to his own contexts as accompaniment to his own inventiveness.

Yesterday evening Ciarla returned to IIC. His basic approach to making music has not changed, but he has extended his technique to incorporate additional resources. The result is a thoroughly engaging approach to rich polyphonic structures, whose “voices” include not only Ciarla’s violin work but also his vocalizing into a pickup on his violin just below his chin and a melodica through which he adds multi-finger harmonic progressions to the mix.

Through this diversity of resources, the nature of listening tends to be richly informed by an awareness of how Ciarla realizes the interplay of capturing, listening, and adding to the mix. Almost all of his selections were original compositions. While, with the exception of “Arbera Casilla,” he did not give any titles, I definitely encountered familiar tracks upon returning to listen to Fiddler in the Loop this morning. Last night’s performance also included his layered approach to the folk song “Bella Ciao” (farewell my beautiful one), which had been popular among the anti-Fascist partisans during the Second World War.

For his final selection, however, Ciarla turned to Astor Piazzolla’s “Libertango,” one of that composer’s first efforts to break with traditional tango style and establish his own approach to nuevo tango. Ostinato has been a major factor in Piazzolla’s original compositions; and “Libertango” has become a landmark in the composer’s catalog. His idea of setting up an underlying pattern and then building on it makes a perfect match to Ciarla’s own approach to making his music. The fit was a decidedly effective one, making a compelling case for Ciarla’s skills as an arranger alongside those of composer and instrumentalist.

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