Stefano Scodanibbio (photograph by Sergio Rosini, courtesy of ECM)
I seem to have been in the right place at the right time when it came to becoming acquainted with the music of Stefano Scodanibbio. “First contact” came with the ECM New Series release of the album Reinventions in 2013 about a year after the composer’s death on January 8, 2012. This was one of those albums that was unabashedly true to its name, since it basically involved reconceptions of both classical and popular music.
About two years later sfSound prepared a concert for performance in the Old First Concerts series entitled Celebrating Stefano Scodanibbio, which provided me with generous exposure to his music in performance. For this occasion sfSound was joined by bassist Lisa Mezzacappa, giving me my first real opportunity to get to know his work for the instrument he played. Most recently, a little over a year ago, I was able to write about the Dark Queen Mantra album released by the Del Sol String Quartet, which featured music by Terry Riley but also included Mas Lugares by Scodanibbio, another “reconception” piece, this time of madrigals by Claudio Monteverdi. Del Sol’s programming provided me with an opportunity to reflect on the friendship that that flourished between Riley and Scodanibbio during the latter’s lifetime.
This Friday ECM New Series will release its second Scodanibbio album. This one is entitled Alisei, which is also the title of the first track, a bass solo. Indeed, the entire album consists of music for one or more basses. The major work is an octet, which is also the longest selection, about half an hour in duration. There are also two “pezzi brillanti” solo pieces; and the album concludes with “Da una certa nebbia” (from a certain fog), which is receiving its premiere recording. This last piece amounts to a tribute to Morton Feldman; and the instrumentation specification amounts to one of Feldman’s sly winks, “for double bass and another double bass.” As usual, Amazon.com is processing pre-orders for this album.
The album deserves credit for its overall organization, particularly where those encountering the composer for the first time are concerned. Composed in 1988, "Alisei” is very much a study in extended techniques. It thus provides the “newcomer-listener” with initial exposure of the extent to which Scodanibbio would often work with sonority as his primary parameter. That listener is then prepared for the more extensive scale of the octet, in which Scodanibbio explores new dimensions of sonority that arise through working with multiples of the same instruments. Indeed, while the track duration may seem intimidating, the entire octet emerges as a series of studies through which he explores different ways to build a rhetoric around sonorities.
Personally, I have only listened to this album a couple of times. However, it has left me with the urge to return for several more visits through which I expect to develop a better sense of not only the composer’s rhetoric but also the logic behind that rhetoric. There is also the factor of listening to some first-rate bass players in both solo and group work. The solo pieces are taken by Daniele Roccato, while the octet is performed by the Ludus Gravis (which probably deserves to be translated as “serious play”) bass ensemble, which Roccato founded. He is joined by Francesco Platoni, Giacomo Piermatti, Alessandro Schillaci, Andrea Passini, Simone Masina, Stefano Battaglia, and Paolo Di Gironimo. The ensemble is conducted by Tonino Battista. Finally, on the final track, the “another double bass” part is taken by Piermatti.